History

Marche Slave: The Serbo-Russian March

The Marche Slave, French for Slavonic March, is an orchestral composition by Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The composition was commissioned from Tchaikovsky to benefit wounded Serbian soldiers. At that time, Serbia was involved in the Serbo-Turkish War (1876–78) with many Russian volunteers helping the fellow Slavs in their fight against the Ottoman Empire.

Tchaikovsky referred to the composition as the Serbo-Russian March but it was originally published as Slavonic March. Today the composition is known by its French name (I’m unsure why). It was first performed in Moscow in November 1876 by Nikolai Rubinstein.

Marche Slave is a highly patriotic composition based on Serbian and Russian folk themes. The first part describes Turkish oppression of the Serbs. It also describes Russians rallying and their volunteers marching to help the Serbs. The composition mentioned the Russian national anthem at the time, God Save the Tsar, and the triumph of the Slavs over tyranny.

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