The chorus Glory (Славься) from the opera A Life for the Tsar by Mikhail Glinka, was arranged for a unison choir and string orchestra by Tchaikovsky in February 1883 (TH 191 ; ČW 440), for a performance at the coronation celebrations of Alexander III. The score was subsequently lost.
On 15/27 January 1883 Pyotr Jurgenson wrote to Tchaikovsky regarding this commissioning of this arrangement by Moscow City Council: "Has Alekseyev  spoken with you concerning Glory, which is to be sung in the form of couplets in Red Square? He asks if you could arrange this as soon as possible" . Tchaikovsky asked to be sent the piano score of Glinka's A Life for the Tsar, and requested further details: "What exactly am I required to do, because I had completely forgotten all about it" .
Replying on 27 January/8 February, Pyotr Jurgenson summarized Nikolay Alekseyev's commission: "Glory is to be set in the form of couplets (4 parts), for a unison choir of 7500 people from schools and colleges in the city of Moscow, and string orchestra, i.e. not military. It's to be performed in Red Square during the reception at the Kremlin. The words should not mention Susanin. After the words "Hurrah, hurrah, onward..." there has to be a transition to the anthem God Save the Tsar. The whole thing needs to be done very swiftly, since the printed score is required urgently". Furthermore, "The choral parts must be distributed no later than 1st March! [O.S.], the orchestral [parts] later" .
Tchaikovsky objected to the chorus singing in unison: "The Glory theme is so well known that if all the voices are asked to sing the same melody, in all probability they will instinctively sing their own harmonies, and similarly if the crowd (besides the choir) insisted on joining in, as is customary, some of them would try to sing in parts also... It is essential that this chorus should be choral... I will set the choral parts so that they will be very simple to learn. It's a pity that I can't just copy out the printed score of A Life for the Tsar, and this work would have been far easier had I had it to hand, because now I have to orchestrate it from memory" .
The first sketches were made on 2/14 February 1883 , and on 4/16 February the composer informed Pyotr Jurgenson: "Today I have sent you Glory in the couplet arrangement. On the whole the work was simple, apart from one or two things, i.e. I simplified the chorus, supplied a very basic form of orchestration and, in my opinion, fashioned a very natural transition to the anthem. The expression basic form I use not in a pejorative way, but in its literal sense, i.e. giving it an effective sound. The only composition involved in all this was: a few bars of transition, and some lines of text for the third couplet" .
The performance took place on 10/22 May 1883 at Red Square in Moscow . A platform was constructed in the square for the choir and orchestra. The choir comprised members of the Moscow Choral Society, a large church choir, choruses of school and college students, and also solo artists from the Imperial Theatres in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The orchestra was made up of performers from the Imperial Theatres and S. V. Perlov's College of Commerce. The stage held 10,640 performers. The choir was assembled by staff from the Moscow Conservatory. The choirmasters were: Karl Albrecht, Jan Hřímalý, Nikolay Kashkin, Eduard Langer, Sergey Taneyev, and Nikolay Hubert.
The whereabouts of Tchaikovsky's manuscript score are unknown.
Mikhail Glinka's five-act opera A Life for the Tsar (or Ivan Susanin) was written in 1834–36 to a libretto by Georgy Rosen, and first produced in Saint Petersburg in 1836.
The Tsarist Russian anthem 'God Save the Tsar' (Боже Цапя храни), which concluded Tchaikovsky's arrangement, was composed in 1833 by Aleksey Lvov.
Notes and References
- Nikolay Aleksandrovich Alekseyev (1852-1893), head of the Moscow city's coronation festivities committee, who in 1885 would become the first elected mayor of Moscow.
- Letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 15/27 January 1883 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
- Letter 2206 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 21 January/2 February 1883.
- Letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 27 January/8 February 1883 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
- Letter 2213 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 29 January/10 February–2/14 February 1883.
- See Letter 2216 to Sergey Taneyev, 2/14 February 1883.
- Letter 2218 to Pyotr Jurgenson, 4/16 February 1883.
- See letter of thanks from the Moscow City Mayor, Boris Chicherin to Tchaikovsky, 31 May/12 June 1883 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
- See letter from Pyotr Jurgenson to Tchaikovsky, 27 January/8 February 1883 — Klin House-Museum Archive.