Montenegro

Tchaikovsky's was commissioned to write music for a tableau vivant set in Montenegro (Черногория) (TH 21 ; ČW 426), as part of the planned silver jubilee celebrations of the Russian Emperor Alexander II. However the performance did not take place, and Tchaikovsky's music has been lost.

Instrumentation

The piece is known to have been written for orchestra, but precise details of its instrumentation are unknown.

Composition

In January 1880 Tchaikovsky received commission from Karl Davydov, the director of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, to provide some music for the silver jubilee celebrations of Tsar Alexander II [1]. A series of tableaux, depicting the principal events of the Emperor's reign, were to be performed, and their texts were to be accompanied by music commissioned from all the leading Russian composers, including Anton Rubinstein, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, César Cui, Eduard Nápravník, Aleksandr Borodin and Nikolay Solovyev. The programme of the scene for which Tchaikovsky's music was commissioned was described as: "Tableau VII: The moment at which news is received in Montenegro of Russia's declaration of war on Turkey (the Leader reading the manifesto to the Montenegrins)" [2].

According to Tchaikovsky, "it was impossible to refuse" [3], although he initially suggested that his Slavonic March could be used for the scene in question. When this idea was rejected he had no choice but to compose fresh music, which began on 27 January/8 February 1880 in Rome [4]. He worked with great reluctance. "Needless to say, all I could come up with was the most filthy noise and crashing about", Tchaikovsky told Anatoly Tchaikovsky on 31 January/12 February 1880, immediately after completing the piece [5].

Performances

The production had been scheduled to take place at the Bolshoi Theatre in Saint Petersburg on 10/22 February 1880. However, on the evening of 5/17 February an attempt was made to assassinate Alexander II at the Winter Palace in the Russian capital, which left the Tsar unharmed but killed eleven other people, and left thirty more injured. As a result the planned jubilee celebration events were permanently cancelled, and Tchaikovsky's music for Montenegro was never performed.

Autographs

Tchaikovsky's manuscript score was sent to Saint Petersburg, but has since been lost or destroyed, together with the contributions from all the other composers involved.

Notes and References

  1. Letter from Karl Davydov to Tchaikovsky, January 1880 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  2. Жизнь Петра Ильича Чайковского, том 2 (1901), p. 372-373.
  3. Letter 1417 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 28 January/9 February 1880.
  4. Letter 1416 to Nadezhda von Meck, 27 January/8 February 1880.
  5. Letter 1418 to Anatoly Tchaikovsky, 31 January/12 February 1880.