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
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.
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 them...in 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 aside...at 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
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....