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The Marche Slave in B-flat minor, Op. 31 (published as Slavonic March) or Serbo-Russian March (Serbian Cyrillic: Словенски марш / Српско-руски марш, Slovenski marsh / Srpsko-ruski marsh, Russian: Славя́нский марш / Сербско-русский марш, Slavyanskiy marsh / Serbsko-russkiy marsh) is a orchestral Tone poem by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky published on October 1876. The title "Marche Slave", by which the piece is generally recognized in the West, is French, the language of culture in Tsarist Russia.
In June 1876, Serbia and the Ottoman Empire were engaged in the Serbo-Turkish War (1876–78). Russia openly supported Serbia. The Russian Musical Society commissioned an orchestral piece from Tchaikovsky for a concert in aid of the Red Cross Society, and ultimately for the benefit of wounded Serbian veterans. Many Russians sympathized with their fellow Slavs and Orthodox Christians and sent volunteer soldiers and aid to assist Serbia.
The march is highly programmatic in its form and organization. The first section describes the oppression of the Serbs by the Turkish. It uses two Serbian folk songs, "Sunce jarko, ne sijaš jednako" (Bright sun, you do not shine equally), "Rado ide Srbin u vojnike" (Gladly does the Serb become a soldier), giving way to the second section in the relative major key, which describes the Russians rallying to help the Serbs. This is based on a simple melody with the character of a rustic dance which is passed around the orchestra until finally it gives way to a solemn statement of the Russian national anthem "God Save the Tsar". The third section of the piece is a repeat of Tchaikovsky's furious orchestral climax, reiterating the Serbian cry for help. The final section describes the Russian volunteers marching to assist the Serbs. It uses a Russian tune, this time in the tonic major key and includes another blazing rendition of "God Save the Tsar" prophesying the triumph of the Slavonic people over tyranny. The overture finishes with a virtuoso coda for the full orchestra.
The piece shares a few refrains with the 1812 Overture, with which it is frequently paired in performance.
The march is scored for two flutes, two piccolos, two oboes, two clarinets in B flat, two bassoons, four horns in F, two cornets in B flat, two trumpets in B flat, three trombones (two tenor, one bass), tuba, three timpani, snare drum, cymbals, bass drum, tamtam, and strings.
- Sir Adrian Boult conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra
- Antal Doráti conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
- Charles Dutoit conducting the Montreal Symphony Orchestra
- Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic
- Bernard Haitink conducting the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam
- Fritz Reiner conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
- Leonard Slatkin conducting the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra
- Leopold Stokowski conducting the London Symphony Orchestra
- Neeme Järvi conducting the Gothenburg Symphony
- Leonard Bernstein conducting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
- Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra
- Brown D (1982) "Tchaikovsky: A Biographical and Critical Study, Volume 2 The Crisis Years 1874–1878" pp. 99–102 Victor Gollancz London. ISBN 0-575-03132-8
- Garden E (1973) "Tchaikovsky" p. 67 JM Dent and Sons ISBN 0-460-03105-8
- Marche Slave: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Tchaikovsky Research
- Downloadable recordings of the march