A Little Russian

“Truly there would be a reason to go mad were it not for music,” – P. I. Tchaikovsky

It was from the Austrian-born composer that some may have heard of, W.A. Mozart, whom we owe a debt of gratitude for Tchaikovsky’s dedication to his art.  At 14 years of age, upon hearing Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Tchaikovsky decided to devote his life to the study of tchaikovsky2music.  And thank the music gods that he heard Mozart’s dark, turbulent and fantastic “Giovanni”.  If not, he might have ended up continuing with his studies at the military boarding school he was attending after the death of his mother.

Tchaikovsky was especially  affected by his country’s folk music, in particular the music from the Ukraine.  He used folk music themes throughout much of his work, but none more so than in his second symphony, the “Little Russian” symphony.  The Ukraine use to be known as Little Russia.

More than any other composer, we find Tchaikovsky’s melodies to be unmatched.  Such beauty.  3 of the 4 movements in this symphony include Ukrainian folk songs directly. “Down the Mother Volga” is used in the first movement. “Spin, O My Spinner” is playfully cast in the second.  And with brilliant and powerful variations, “The Crane” serves as the theme of the 4th movement.

Elegance, imagery and heart-pounding power that only Tchaikovsky seemed to be able to create in nearly every one of his works is abundantly displayed throughout his 2nd symphony.

And the performance included in the video below, by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Mr. Leonard Slatkin, is by far, the most beautiful and powerful interpretation this writer has ever heard. (Of course, just my opinion and my ears but it’s damn good!)  Please…do your senses a favor, listen to it with headphones.  It is a high quality recording and is even more enjoyable with headphones where you’ll distinctly hear each instrument…and the robust and mighty ending are even more enjoyable with orchestra at full tilt!

TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 2, “Little Russian”

Berlin Philharmonic- Herbert Von Karajan

Photo credit (front page):  Émile Reutlinger [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always liked ‘Little Russian,’ but if you want to hear some REALLY great Tchaikovsky, Slavonic March is where it’s at. 🙂 I’m a violinist, so I feel morally obligated to say that Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto is great—and it is! But I think Slavonic March is my favorite Tchaikovsky piece of all. Seriously, those bits (I think it’s in two places) where he uses motifs from the tsarist national anthem are so incredibly powerful. (Granted, I’m an ardent Russian monarchist, but the tsarist national anthem is quite beautiful musically as well!)

    Basically, Tchaikovsky was awesome and a genius and I’m so glad there are people in this day and age who appreciate him.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wonderful information, Natalie. Thank you! Tchaikovsky, next to, or even along side of, Beethoven and Mozart are my favorites. I can’t think of any music that brings me such an intense and emotional reaction and feeling than that from hearing about any piece of Tchaikovsky’s. In the city I live, there is an upcoming “Russian” themed concert that I will be attending. On the program…Slavonic March; Prokofiev’s violin concerto No. 2, and Tchaikovsky’s 4th symphony. To say “i can’t wait” in an understatement! His 4th symphony is probably my favorite of his symphonies. And I agree with you wholeheartedly….his Slavonic March is where it’s at. Of all his works, this is the one I listen to most. Are you familiar with pianist Daniil Kharitonov? A couple of months ago I just came across his playing of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdHzwtPDZn8) For being only 19 years old – truly impressive. Actually, for any age – the performance was simply magnificent. Thank you again for stopping by the site and for the thoughts you sent along.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh my, I’d love to hear Slavonic March in a live concert! My recording is great but there’s nothing like a real performance. I don’t know Kharitonov, but I’ll have to watch that video. Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto is another favorite of mine.

        Liked by 1 person

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