Fifty Russian Folksongs

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Tchaikovsky's arrangements of Fifty Russian Folksongs (Пятьдесят русских народных песен) for piano duet (TH 176 ; ČW 351–400) were made in December 1868 (Nos. 1–25) and August–September 1869 (Nos. 26–50).


Scored for piano duet (4 hands).

Movements and Duration

The fifty songs are mostly very short, and last around 30 to 35 minutes in a complete performance:

  1. 'The Young Maiden Walked So Far' (Исходила младенька)
  2. 'Oh, My Poor Head!' (Голова ль ты моя, головушка)
  3. 'Please, Try to Remember, My Darling' (Вспомни, вспомни, моя любезная)
  4. 'The Eel Coiling in the Water' (Вьюн на воде извивается)
  5. 'Do Not Flood, My Gentle Danube' (Не разливайся, мой тихой Дунай)
  6. 'Keep on Spinning, My Spinner' (Пряди, моя пряха)
  7. 'The Tower is Not Yet Built' (Не тесам терен)
  8. 'The Pine-Tree Swings By the Gate' (У ворот сосна раскачалася)
  9. 'All Flowers Fade' (Поблекнут все цветики)
  10. 'Floating and Rising' (Плывет, восплывает)
  11. 'My Green Vineyard' (Зеленое мое, ты виноградье)
  12. 'Be Calmed, Stormy Winds' (Не бушуйте, ветры буйные)
  13. 'At the Crack of Dawn' (Как на зорке, на заре)
  14. 'It Isn't Drink That's Muddling My Head' (Не хмель мою головушку клонит)
  15. 'Rise Up, Rise Up, O Sun' (Взойди, взойди, солнце)
  16. 'Do Not Sing, O Nightingale' (Не пой, не пой, соловушко)
  17. 'Master Andrey Made Merry' (Гулял Андрей господин)
  18. 'The Duckling in the Meadow' (Ах, утушка луговая)
  19. 'Young Maiden at the Feast' (Я вечор млада во пиру была)
  20. 'I Shall Come to Your Town' (Пойду, подступлю под ваш город)
  21. 'It's Not the Sound Resounding' (Не шум шумит)
  22. 'Coming Down the Mountain' (Как со горки, со горы)
  23. 'A Little Duckling was Swimming on the Sea' (На море утушка купалася)
  24. 'I Wear My Hair in a Plait' (Коса ль моя косынька)
  25. 'Beyond My Yard is a Green Meadow' (За двором лужок, зеленешенек)
  26. 'We Worked the Land' (А мы землю наняли)
  27. 'Upon the Sea So Blue' (Как по морю, как по синему)
  28. 'On the Green Meadow' (А как по лугу зеленому)
  29. 'Our Wine Cellar' (Винный наш колодезь)
  30. 'I'm Coming to the Capital' (Пойду, пойду, во Царь-город)
  31. 'Thank You, But No Thank You, Father Superior' (Не спасибо те, игумну тебе)
  32. 'Little Ivan Wears a Big Hat' (На Иванушке чапан)
  33. 'In the Meadows' (Во лузях)
  34. 'Merry Katya' (Катенька веселая)
  35. 'O My Heart, My Heavy Heart' (Эко сердце, эко бедное мое)
  36. 'Oh, My Duckling in the Meadow' (Ой, утушка моя луговая)
  37. 'The Young Maiden' (Молодка-молоденькая)
  38. 'Play My Bagpipes' (Заиграй, моя волынка)
  39. 'O, My Fields' (Уж ты, поле мое поле)
  40. 'Stop My Merry Dance' (Стой, мой милый хоровод)
  41. 'The Grey Cockerel' (Уж ты, сизенький петух)
  42. 'Under the Green Apple Tree' (Под яблонью зеленою)
  43. 'O, My Unspoiled Field' (Уж ты, поле мое, поле чистой)
  44. 'Like a Princess in the Town' (Как во городе царевна)
  45. 'Cranberries and Raspberries' (Калинушка с малинушкой)
  46. 'In the Meadows' (Как по лугу, по лужечку)
  47. 'Vanya was Sitting' (Сидел Ваня)
  48. 'By the Gates' (У ворот, ворот)
  49. 'Song of the Volga Boatmen' (Эй, ухнем: Бурлацкая)
  50. 'There Was No Wind' (Не было ветру)


The story of how the arrangements came to be made is revealed in a letter from Tchaikovsky to Mily Balakirev of 30 December 1868/11 January 1869: "Jurgenson asked me to make a four hand arrangement of 50 Russian songs, 25 of which I have already done; they are drawn from Villebois' collection. It goes without saying that I discarded Villebois' harmonisations and did them myself, and furthermore, I decided here and there to rewrite the melodies to make them more in keeping with the character of folksongs. Next I want to take 25 songs from your collection, provided this in no way displeases you. I would like to know: 1) Whether you want me to use your harmonisations and merely arrange them for four hands? [1]; 2) or whether, on the contrary, you do not wish this at all?; 3) or whether in either case you would not be happy with me and would generally prefer me not to use your songs? In short, I will do nothing until I hear from you" [2]. In his letter of reply, Balakirev granted Tchaikovsky permission to use his collection: "With regard to my songs, which you want to arrange for 4 hands, do whatever you think will be best" [3].

Work on the first book of songs was finished in mid/late December 1868 [4]. These included 23 songs from the collection of Konstantin Villebois. Besides these, the song A Duckling was Swimming on the Sea (No. 23) was given to Tchaikovsky by Aleksandr Ostrovsky in 1866 [5], and the songI Wear My Hair in a Plait (No. 24) was noted down by Tchaikovsky in September 1867 [6].

On 13/25 March 1869 in a letter to Mily Balakirev, Tchaikovsky expressed his intention to start work. on the second book of the collection of songs [7]. This was done, it seems, in August and September 1869, after the opera Undina was finished [8]. As well as 24 songs from Balakirev's collection, book two also included the song Vanya was Sitting, noted down by the composer in the summer of 1869 at Kamenka.


Both books from the collection were published by Pyotr Jurgenson: Book 1 (Nos. 1–25) was printed in December 1868, and apparently issued in January or February 1869. Book 2 (Nos. 26–50) was published in November 1869 [9].

In 1949 the folksongs were included in volume 61 of Tchaikovsky's Complete Collected Works, edited by Sofya Ziv.


Tchaikovsky's manuscript scores of both sets are now preserved in the Glinka National Museum Consortium of Musical Culture in Moscow (ф. 88, No. 149 [view]).


See: Fifty Russian Folksongs: Recordings

Related Works

Many of the folksongs were used by Tchaikovsky in other works:

  • No. 1. 'The Young Maiden Walked So Far' — in The Storm overture (1864), the Overture in C minor (1865-66), and the opera The Voyevoda (1867-68).
  • No. 2. 'Oh, My Poor Head!' — in the piano piece Russian Song (No. 12) from the Children's Album (1878).
  • No. 6. 'Keep On Spinning, My Spinner' — in the second movement of Symphony No. 2 (1872).
  • No. 10. 'Floating and Rising' — in the dances (Act IV, No. 15) from the opera The Oprichnik (1870-72).
  • No. 11. 'My Green Vineyard' — in the Russian Dance (Act III, No. 16) from the opera Vakula the Smith (1874) and in the Russian Dance (Act III, No. 22a) from Cherevichki (1885).
  • No. 14. 'It Isn't Drink That's Muddling My Head' — in the Chorus of Blind Gusli Players (Act II, No. 9) from The Snow Maiden (1873).
  • No. 15. 'Rise Up, Rise Up, O Sun' was also used as No. 44 in Vasily Prokunin's collection of 65 Russian Folksongs, edited by Tchaikovsky (1872-83).
  • No. 17. 'Master Andrey Made Merry' — in the dances (Act IV, No. 15) from The Oprichnik (1870-72).
  • No. 21. 'Tis Not the Sound Resounding' — in the second version of Lel's Third Song (Act III, No. 14b) from The Snow Maiden (1873), and also in Kuma's Arioso (Act I, No. 6) from the opera The Enchantress (1885-87).
  • No. 23. 'A Little Duckling Was Swimming on the Sea' — in Act I (No. 1) from the opera The Voyevoda (1867-68), and in Act I (No. 2) from The Oprichnik (1870-72).
  • No. 24. 'I Wear My Hair in a Plait' — in Act II (No. 5) from the opera The Voyevoda (1867-68), and in Natalya's Song (Act I, No. 2) from The Oprichnik (1870-72).
  • No. 25. 'Beyond My Yard is a Green Meadow' — in Act II (No. 9) of the opera The Voyevoda (1867-68), and in Act I (No. 6) of The Oprichnik (1870-72).
  • No. 28. 'On the Green Meadow' — as the introduction to the fourth movement of the Serenade for String Orchestra (1880).
  • No. 29. 'Our Wine-Cellar' — in the dances (Act IV, No. 15) from The Oprichnik (1870-72).
  • No. 30. 'I'm Coming to the Capital' — a variant of this tune may have been used as the second subject of the finale of the Piano Concerto No. 1 (1874-75) [10]
  • No. 32. 'Little Ivan Had a Big Hat' — in the dances (Act IV, No. 15) from The Oprichnik (1870-72).
  • No. 34. 'Merry Katya' — in the dances (Act IV, No. 15) from The Oprichnik (1870-72).
  • No. 36. 'Oh, My Duckling in the Meadow' — in Tsar Berendey's March (Act IV, No. 18) from The Snow Maiden (1873).
  • No. 42. 'Under the Green Apple-Tree' — as the main theme of the fourth movement of the Serenade for String Orchestra (1880).
  • No. 47. 'Vanya Was Sitting' — in the second movement (Andante cantabile) of the String Quartet No. 1 (1871).
  • No. 48. 'By the Gates' — in the festival overture The Year 1812 (1880).

Notes and References

  1. "In this case, the title-page would certainly stipulate that I had adopted your harmonizations" — Tchaikovsky’s note.
  2. Letter 126 to Mily Balakirev, 30 December 1868/11 January 1869.
  3. Letter from Mily Balakirev to Tchaikovsky, 15/27 January 1869 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  4. See Letter 124 to Modest Tchaikovsky, mid/late December 1869.
  5. See Letter 493 to Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, 7/19 September 1876.
  6. See Letter 104 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 28 September/10 October 1867.
  7. See Letter 134 to Mily Balakirev, 13/25 March 1869.
  8. See Letter 150 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 25 September/7 October 1869, and Letter 151 to Mily Balakirev, 12/24 October 1869.
  9. See Letter 159 to Mily Balakirev, 17/29 November 1869.
  10. See The Piano concertos of Peter Tchaikovsky (1994), p. 133-134. We are grateful to Mr Hans de Korver for bringing this to our attention.