- William Henry Curry, Music Director of the Durham Symphony Orchestra, North Carolina, writes for Tchaikovsky Research about his 2015 adaptation and orchestration of Tchaikovsky's Military March.
Completed on 17 May 1893, the Military March in B-flat major written for piano (TH 150) was Tchaikovsky's last instrumental composition. He began work on it the very day he finished his magnum opus, the Symphony No. 6, Pathètique.
The request for the piece came from a cousin in the 98th Yurevsky Regiment who wanted the composer to write a march for his regimental band. His cousin specified that it should have "three sections in all, with something melodic and increasingly noisy" . The cousin later clarified that the third section should be a Trio. In this context a Trio is the middle section of a march that typically features a song-like and lyrical melody that is meant to be a strong contrast to the martial strains of the first two sections. The famous melody for the Trio in John Phillip Sousa's The Stars and Stripes Forever is a good example of this form and tradition.
Tchaikovsky, being unfamiliar with band scoring, wrote the piece for piano and suggested that the group's bandmaster create a version for his group. "But I ask that the substance must not be augmented or altered", Tchaikovsky added, noting that "the harmony and melody must remain untouched" .
I have been devoted to the music of Tchaikovsky since before my conducting debut (17 March 1970), when at age fifteen I conducted music from Swan Lake. From that age on, I conducted virtually every piece of orchestral music that Tchaikovsky wrote. However, I did not discover this completely unfamiliar Military March until 2014 — when I immediately fell in love with it. It was obvious to me that the work was not yet "finished". As opposed to Tchaikovsky's other grandiose marches (Marche Slave, Coronation March, Jurisprudence March), this one lacked an introduction and a suitably imposing ending. So with the help of a commission from the North Carolina Symphony Association, I decided to create a version for full symphony orchestra that would do justice to Tchaikovsky's musical "torso". It was premiered by the North Carolina Symphony on 30 January 2015, and is dedicated to my longtime friend, J. Daniel Huband.
For the instrumentation and the orchestration I have adhered closely to Tchaikovskian models. And because this March is a military one, I could not resist (inspired by Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture) adding cannon fire and "God Save the Tsar"! For this adaptation I have supplied the Military March with an introduction, transitional material, and a coda. The creation of these additional eighty bars involved some composition on my part and the re-shaping of some excerpts from some of Tchaikovsky's less familiar works, including two of the fanfares from his incidental music for Shakespeare's Hamlet and the "Coronation Scene" from his opera about Joan of Arc, The Maid of Orleans. My goal was to organically integrate these materials with the original, thus creating a symphonic version of Tchaikovsky's last creative endeavor. In other words, it was to be an old/new piece by Tchaikovsky, written with a little help from a friend.
Click on the link below to listen to a performance by the Durham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by William Henry Curry.
- - (8.5Mb, 7'27 minutes)
- The author welcomes enquiries regarding the score and performing materials; he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org