March on Belorussian and Ukrainian Folk Tunes

The idea for this march (TH 243 ; ČW 470) was suggested to the composer by the artist Mikhail Mikeshin when the two men met in Saint Petersburg on 3/15 September 1893. Mikeshin wrote of this meeting a few months later [1]: "He [Tchaikovsky] was so impressed by my paintings—illustrations to poems by T. G. Shevchenko—that I dedicated one of them (on the subject of Katherine) to him, and I gave him another, Fantasia (a watercolour). He then asked me what would I like him to write for me. 'How about a march?'. I was delighted by this suggestion. 'But if it is to be a march, shouldn't it have a subject?', he enquired again, 'What subject do you suggest?'. I told him that my family were poor peasant-folk from the famine areas of Belorussia, and so what about one of their melancholy folksongs: 'The Maiden Walked by the River' (Коло реченьки молода хадзила)? I sang the song there and then, and he immediately noted it down, with faultless accuracy".

As a secondary theme, Mikeshin suggested a Ukrainian tune: 'Hey, Don't be Surprised Good Fellows' (Гей, не двуйте, добрий люды), the melody of which he later sent to Tchaikovsky via his brother Modest [2].

Mikeshin's article also includes a facsimile of a note from the composer (Letter 5026), in which he promised to write a march based on 'The Maiden Walked by the River'. However, Tchaikovsky did not fulfil his promise before his death on 25 October/6 November 1893.

Notes and References