Coronation March

Tchaikovsky Research

Tchaikovsky's Coronation March (Коронационный марш) in D major (TH 50 ; ČW 47) [1], also known as Festival March (Торжественный марш), was written in March 1883 for the coronation celebrations of the Russian Emperor Alexander III.


The March is scored for an orchestra consisting of piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets (in A), 2 bassoons + 4 horns (in F), 2 cornets (in A), 2 trumpets (in D), 3 trombones, tuba + 3 timpani, triangle, military drum, cymbals, bass drum + violins I, violins II, violas, cellos, and double basses.


There is one movement: Andante molto maestoso (D major, 125 bars), lasting around 5 to 7 minutes in performance.


The March was commissioned by the Mayor of the City of Moscow for a public performance in Sokolniky Park, at the coronation celebrations of Alexander III in May 1883. Tchaikovsky received the commission while in Paris, where he was busy with the instrumentation of his opera Mazepa, and he protested his great displeasure at being forced to interrupt this work. However, he began composition on 5/17 March, according to the date in the notebook containing sketches for the march and the cantata Moscow, which had been separately commissioned.

On 9/21 March 1883, Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck: "My plans have been upset by two unexpected and very burdensome tasks foisted upon me. The city of Moscow have commissioned from me a ceremonial march to be played at the festivities which are to be organized for the Sovereign at the Sokolniky... I had barely managed to reconcile myself to the thought that I must tear myself away from the opera for the march, when suddenly I received a letter from the festival committee about a cantata [2]. My first impulse was to refuse, but then I decided that at all costs I must try to complete both works in time. I know from reliable sources that the Sovereign is very disposed to me (that is, to my music), and I should not like him to be informed that I refused. Both works, especially the cantata, have to be carried out with a speed that fills me with dread" [3]. Later he reported the same to Sofya Malozyomova [4], Sergey Taneyev [5], and Aleksey Sofronov [6].

On 7/19 March, he told Pyotr Jurgenson that the march should be ready within ten days. "This is very contrary to my nature, because in general I've no inclination to compose, and all the more so when this tears my away from my never-ending opera" [7].

In another letter to Jurgenson of 12/24 March he reported that he was simultaneously writing the march and the cantata: "I probably won't manage to do the march as quickly as I promised before, but in any case, provided I remain alive and well, it will make it to Moscow by April" [8].

By around 21 March/2 April, both the cantata Moscow and the Coronation March had been completed in sketch form, and Tchaikovsky had commenced the orchestration of both works [9].

On 23 March/4 April Tchaikovsky told Pyotr Jurgenson: "I've finished the march, and I'll after reviewing it I'll send it to you in a few days" [10]. On 25 March/6 April he reported that "at the cost of considerable effort, I've managed to finish the march and the cantata with unfathomable haste, and I'm sending them to Osip Ivanovich tomorrow with a request that the cantata be delivered to the coronation committee, and the march to you" [11].


Tchaikovsky's arrangement for solo piano was begun after 20 March/1 April, and completed by 26 March/7 April 1883 [12].


The Coronation March was performed for the first time on 23 May/4 June 1883 in the Sokolniky Park in Moscow, conducted by Sergey Taneyev. In Saint Petersburg on 29 December 1884/10 January 1885 it was performed under the title Festival March, in the fourth symphony concert of the Russian Musical Society, conducted by Hans von Bülow.

Tchaikovsky also conducted the March at the opening concert of the Carnegie Music Hall in New York, on 23 April/5 May 1891. Other notable performances were:

  • Amsterdam, Concertgebouw, matinée concert, 18/30 September 1894, conducted by Willem Kes
  • London, Organ School student concert, 29 November/11 December 1894, conducted by George J. Bennett


The full score and orchestral parts of the March, Tchaikovsky's arrangement for piano two hands, and Eduard Langer's arrangement for piano duet were published in Moscow by Pyotr Jurgenson in 1883.

The full score and Tchaikovsky's solo piano arrangement of the Coronation March were published in volumes 25 (1961) and 50Б (1965) respectively of the composer's Complete Collected Works, edited by Aleksandr Nikolayev and Irina Iordan respectively. The statements of the anthem 'God Save the Tsar' were replaced with other music, with the original text confined to footnotes.


Tchaikovsky's manuscript full score is preserved in the Russian National Museum of Music in Moscow (Ф. 88, No. 205) [view]. The score of his arrangement for solo piano has been lost.


See: Discography

Related Works

See also Moscow (cantata).

The Coronation March includes quotations from the Danish royal anthem 'Kong Kristian stod ved højen mast', reflecting the Danish origins of the Empress Mariya Fyodorovna (from bars 27, 90), and from the Russian anthem 'God Save the Tsar' (Боже Цапя храни), composed in 1833 by Aleksey Lvov (from bars 91 and 110).

External Links

Notes and References

  1. Entitled 'Festival Coronation March' in ČW.
  2. The cantata Moscow.
  3. Letter 2236 to Nadezhda von Meck, 9/21 March 1883.
  4. Letter 2243 to Sofya Malozyomova, 21 March/2 April 1883.
  5. Letter 2253 to Sergey Taneyev, 1/13–3/15 April 1883.
  6. Letter 2237 to Aleksey Sofronov, 11/23 March 1883.
  7. Letter 2235 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 7/19 March 1883.
  8. Letter 2239 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 12/24 March 1883.
  9. Letter 2244 to Nadezhda von Meck, 21 March/2 April 1883.
  10. Letter 2245 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 23 March/4 April 1883.
  11. See letters 2248 and 2250 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 25 March/6 April and 26 March/7 April 1883.
  12. Letter 2239 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 12/24 March 1883.