Tchaikovsky and Folk Music
By Edward Manukyan
Opening speech given before a performance of Tchaikovsky's music by L.A. Symphonic Winds.
Los Angeles, June 13, 2005.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am honored to be asked to speak for an introduction to Tchaikovsky’s music but, as Mr. Piazza suggested, I should speak from a personal prospective, since there is hardly anything new to be said about Tchaikovsky.
We all understand the main value of this composer’s work - its profound embodiment of Russian folklore and the school of symphonism, passed down to him from Glinka. But what exactly is Russian folklore? Is it possible that the world’s largest country can have folk music that can be identified in singular terms? Well, not really. Different parts of Russia have developed different types of musical traditions. Tchaikovsky’s music utilizes folk material from all these sources and, most often, from Russia’s north, his so-called “Slavic” influence - as apposed to Rimsky-Korsakov, for example, who drew more influences from the south, particularly the Caucasus region. And as someone, who was born and raised in Armenia, a country that shares the land of the Caucasus, I know all too well how all these traditions can mix and find shape within the European classical forms. Examples of such international crystallization of art music can be observed not only in the works of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, but also in the works of Alexander Spendiaryan, Aram Khachaturyan, Alexander Machavariani, Uzeyir Hajibeyov, Kara Karayev and many others. A masterful integration of such diverse influences can produce phenomenal works of immeasurable values.
Small wonder that to this day, when Tchaikovsky's style is so out of fashion, so many young Russian composers still take genuine inspiration from his works. Of course, for me it was listening to Khachaturyan’s music that turned my creative impulses to composition. If I was Russian, my “Khachaturyan” might have been Tchaikovsky.