Tune of the Day: Marche Slave
In 1876, following incidents in which Turkish soldiers killed a large number of Christian Slavs who were rebelling against the Ottoman Empire, Serbia declared war on Turkey. Many Russians sympathized with those they considered to be their fellow Slavs and Orthodox Christians and sent volunteer soldiers and aid to assist the Kingdom of Serbia. In the ensuing struggle the Serbian army was quickly defeated by the Turks.
Nikolai Rubinstein, a close friend of Tchaikovsky, asked him to compose a piece for a concert benefiting the wounded Russian volunteers. In a burst of patriotism, Tchaikovsky composed and orchestrated what was first known as the Serbo-Russian March (later to be known as Marche Slave) in only five days. The piece was premiered in Moscow in November 1876 to a warm reception.
The march is highly programmatic in its form and organization. The first section describes the oppression of the Serbians by the Turkish. It uses two Serbian folk songs. The first, which is known as “Come my dearest, why so sad this morning?”, is played, as Tchaikovsky directs, "at the speed of a funeral march". The second folk song is more optimistic in character. An episode follows, describing the atrocities in the Balkans, in which Tchaikovsky uses his mastery of the orchestra to build a tremendous climax, at the height of which the first folk song returns, fortissimo on the trumpets like a plangent cry for help.
The piece shares a few refrains with the 1812 Overture, with which it is frequently paired in performance; however, the Slavonic March is a more enthusiastically patriotic composition than the 1812 Overture.