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Souvenir de Florence

I was interested in the tunes (so called folk melodies) in the 3rd and 4th movements of the piece. Are they in fact folk tunes or even really Russian. The Italians have minor tunes as well. Any thinking behind why a Russian tune might be in a composition remembering Florence, or is Tchaikovsky running something Russian through an Italian filter to make his point.

Just came from a concert of Tokyo S.G doing the piece in Los Angeles at the Colburn School. I doubt that these are actual Russian tunes; it would be so out of keeping with the atmosphere of the rest of the piece. I am reviewing the concert which also included the Mendelssohn Octet.

I liked the photo of Tchaikovsky sitting on the bench on the Arno. Such a peaceful place in those days.

Steven Woodruff

Dear Mr. Woodruff,

In answer to your question as to the origins of the tunes of the third and fourth movements of the sextet, based upon my readings I have not come across any suggestion that they had a Russian folk origin...tho they do have a Russian feel to other words they were not borrowed....

In the winter and spring of 1890 Tchaikovsky stayed in Florence to find the peace he needed to write his opera The Queen of Spades....while in the midst of this endeavor his interest in the Sextet for Strings was reawakened...he had sketched the first movement earlier but not in Italy and had put it the conclusion of the sketches for the opera he turned once more to the Souvenir de Florence and completed most of the work in Italy...and so the appellation came about due to his sojourn in Italy rather than an inspiration or reflection of the place itself....any further comparisons would be purely coincidental...maybe it was in appreciation that in his stay there he brought a major work into fruition...

There is nothing particularly Italian about the piece in any case....more of a tribute to that country would be the Capriccio Italien from 1880....

I hope this satisfies your question....


Albert Gasparo

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