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Marche slave

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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

The Marche slave, also Marche slav (French pronunciation: [maʁʃ(ə) slav]) in B-flat minor, Op. 31, is an orchestral tone poem by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky published in 1876. It was written to celebrate Russia's intervention in the Serbo-Ottoman War.


It has been published variously as Slavic March (Serbian: Словенски марш / Slovenski marš; Russian: Славянский марш, romanizedSlavyanskiy marsh), Slavonic March, and Serbo-Russian March (Serbian: Српско-руски марш / Srpsko-ruski marš; Russian: Сербско-русский марш, romanizedSerbsko-russkiy marsh).


In June 1876, Serbia and the Ottoman Empire were engaged in the Serbian-Ottoman War, in which 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.[1][2] Many Russians sympathized with their fellow Slavs and Orthodox Christians and sent volunteer soldiers and aid to assist Serbia.

Tchaikovsky referred to the piece as his "Serbo-Russian March" while writing it. It was premiered in Moscow on November 17 [O.S. November 5] 1876, conducted by Nikolai Rubinstein.

Serbian soldiers attacking the Ottoman army at Mramor, illustration from 1877

The march is highly programmatic in its form and organization. The first section, written in the somber key of B-flat minor, describes the oppression of the Serbs by the Ottoman Turks. It uses two Serbian folk songs, "Sunce jarko, ne sijaš jednako" (Bright sun, you do not shine equally),[3] by Isidor Ćirić and "Rado ide Srbin u vojnike" (Gladly does the Serb become a soldier)[4] by Josip Runjanin. This eventually gives way to the second section, written in the relative key of D-flat major, which describes the Russians rallying to help the Serbs. This is based on a simple melody with the character of a rustic dance that is passed around the orchestra, until finally it gives way to a solemn statement of the Russian imperial anthem "God Save the Tsar". The third section of the piece is a repeat of Tchaikovsky's furious orchestral climax from the first section, reiterating the Serbian cry for help. The fourth and final section describes the Russian volunteers marching into battle to assist the Serbs. It uses a Russian folk tune, this time in the tonic major key of B-flat major, and includes another blazing rendition of "God Save the Tsar", prophesying the triumph of the Slavonic people over the Ottomans. The overture finishes with a virtuoso coda for the full orchestra.

The piece is frequently paired in performance with Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture," which also quotes "God Save the Tsar." In Russia, during the Soviet era, the imperial anthem was replaced in both pieces with the chorus "Glory, Glory to you, holy Rus'!" (Славься, славься, святая Русь!), which ironically came from the finale of Mikhail Glinka's opéra A Life for the Tsar, a historical drama about a patriotic commoner named Ivan Susanin. The original version of the song, written by Vasily Zhukovsky and Egor Fyodorovich Rozen, praised the Tsar and the Russian Tsardom, while the latter version by Sergey Gorodetsky was one of a patriotic form and is sometimes regarded as the unofficial anthem of Russia in the 20th century and even today. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War, the original scores of both pieces returned.[5]


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.

Notable performances[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Slavonic March". The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  2. ^ Tchaikovsky Research – Slavonic March
  3. ^ Gordana Kojadinović. Sunce jarko ne sijaš jednako - Gordana Kojadinović. Archived from the original on 2021-12-12.
  4. ^ National Channel. Радо иде Србин у војнике (хорска верзија). Archived from the original on 2021-12-12.
  5. ^ Russian national anthem "God Save the Tsar" in Tchaikovsky's music Archived 10 July 2006 at the Wayback Machine


  • 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

External links[edit]