Festival Overture in D on the Danish National Hymn
Pjotr Iljitsch Tschaikowsky
(b. Wotkinski, 7 May 1840 – d. St. Petersburg, 6 November 1893)
„Festive Overture on the Danish National Anthem“ op.15
In September 1866, while Tschaikowsky was at the Moscow Conservatory, the director Nicolai Rubinstein procured him his first public commission for a composition. In connection with the celebrations in Moscow to honour the visit of the Tsarevich (the heir to the throne) and his wife Frau Dagmar, a Danish princess, whom he had recently married, Tschaikowsky was to compose a festive music. Although Tschaikowsky had to assume, that this composition would probably only be performed once, as it was commissioned for a particular occasion, he worked diligently on the score. However, the visit of the couple had to be postponed, and the planned festive concert could therefore not take place. As thanks for the composition Tschaikowsky received a pair of golden cuff links, from the Tsarevich which the 26 year old composer immediately sold, in order to obtain cash. A few days later Nicolai Rubinstein conducted the first performance on the occasion of a charity concert.
In the composition Tschaikowsky combines the Russian and Danish National anthems. The extended introduction “Andante non troppo” extends over a third of the performance. Here Tschaikowsky initially uses elements of the Danish “King’s Anthem” and the the Russian “Tsar’s Anthem”. When the Danish “King’s Anthem” is finally taken up by the brass section, the sound has become almost Russian. A transition, that is marked by horn and trumpet signals, leads to the turbulent “Allegro vivo”, that is characterized by the same thematic material. The climax of the development is at the “Meno mosso maestoso”, where the “Danish King’s Anthem” sounds in fortissimo. The subsequent coda is characterized by the strong use of the percussion.
As the crowned Tsar Alexander III, the former Tsarevich became an important patron of the music of Tschaikowsky. Thus in 1884 the Tsar awarded him the St. Vladimir order IV. Class and so procured for him from 1885 a yearly National pension.
In the last year of his life, Tschaikowsky edited the overture for publication. In this context he noted that the composition “is very effective (…) and contains much better music than the 1812 Overture”. The idea of using both anthems to demonstrate the affection of both sovereigns was striking, but exactly this is one of the reasons, that the work is scarcely performed and today almost unknown.
Duration: about 13 minutes
Translation: John Conrad
For performance material please contact Kalmus, Boca Raton. Reprint of a copy from the collection Marcus Prieser, Wittmund
210 x 297 mm