8. The Russian schism

Nationalism was an important factor both politically and culturally during the nineteenth century. In Russian music this manifested itself in a rejection of a ‘Germanic’ influence in favour of native dance and folk song and the chants of the Russian orthodox church. Battle lines were drawn between the academically trained composers (mainly Tchaikovsky) and the nationalists, the so-called Могучая кучка [Mighty Handful] aka The Five (Mily Balakirev, César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Alexander Borodin). Despite this mutual distrust, there was one work of Tchaikovsky that the Five admired without reservation, his Second Symphony.

The Second Symphony in c-minor has a nickname; it’s known as the Little Russian, which was another name for the Ukraine. The symphony got this subtitle (and the approval of the Five) because of its use of three Ukrainian folk-songs – Down by mother Volga in the first movement, Spin, O My Spinner in the Andantino and The Crane in the finale..

Pyotr Tchaikovsky:
Symphony No. 2 in c, op. 17
Little Russian

Andante sostenuto – Allegro vivo 00:00
Andantino marziale, quasi moderato 10:52
Scherzo: Allegro molto vivace 18:03
Finale: Moderato assai – Allegro vivo 23:13


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