Tchaikovsky Symphony Number 2  "The Little Russian"

History 

Tchaikovsky wrote his Second Symphony in 1872. The Symphony was a hit from its first performance. During Tchaikovsky's life there was a group of Russian Composers called the Russian Five. The Five wanted Russian composers to write nationalistic music.  Tchaikovsky didn't really agree with the Five but he did sometimes use folk music in his compositions. 

Tchaikovsky used three Ukrainian folk songs in the Second Symphony and because of that it was nicknamed the "Little Russian"

 

Even though it was a big hit, Tchaikovsky was not satisfied with the symphony. He revised it a lot in 1879-80 and the revised version is the one that is played today.

Fourth Movement

In the fourth movement of the symphony Tchaikovsky uses a folk song called "The Crane".  Tchaikovsky wrote that his butler used to sing the song to him when he was a child.

 

Here is the song and a performance of it in Russian.  

Tchaikovsky uses this song pretty much in the whole fourth movement.

It starts with an introduction 

IN THE FIELD

IN THE FIELD THERE SAT

IN THE FIELD THERE SAT A CRANE, IN THE FIELD THERE SAT A CRANE, IN THE FIELD THERE SAT A CRANE, IN THE FIELD THERE SAT A

And only after the introduction do we hear the whole song or theme.

Fourth Movement Only

A Funny Story

Full Symphony - Fourth Movement starts at 24:55

Tchaikovsky loved to tell the story about how he almost lost the musical notes  for the Little Russian Symphony on a ride to Moscow. In those days, people in Russia used horses from the postoffice to travel between towns. The postmaster would decide who would get the horses hitched to their wagon, and then the postmaster would go with the travelers and the mail. Tchaikovsky and his brother Modest were traveling back to Moscow and they  wanted to convince the postmaster to hitch the horses to their wagon. In order to convince the postmaster to give them the horses, Tchaikovsky said he was a Prince -  "Prince Volkonsky". The postmaster agreed to hitch the horses to the "Prince's" wagon. That evening they stopped at an inn to sleep overnight. After dinner Tchaikovsky saw that his luggage wasn't in his room - and the notes for the symphony were in his luggage! Tchaikovsky was afraid that the postmaster had opened the luggage, seen the music and realized that Tchaikovsky wasn't really a prince. He sent someone to get the luggage but the postmaster wouldn't give it to anyone but the "Prince" himself. Tchaikovsky realized that the postmaster hadn't found out his real identity. When he went to get his luggage he ended up talking to the postmaster for a long time and eventually asked him his name. The postmaster said that his name was "Tchaikovsky" and the composer thought this the postmaster's way of telling him that he knew he wasn't a prince. But later he learned that "Tchaikovsky" was really the postmaster's name! Tchaikovsky always thought this was a really funny story!

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