Tchaikovsky A-Z: Letter V
Tchaikovsky chose to open his Second Symphony (the 'Little Russian') with the dignified folktune 'Down by Mother Volga', paying tribute to Russia's principal river, the longest in Europe. Rising midway between St Petersburg and Moscow it flows through Western Russia via Nizhny Novgorod and Astrakhan to the Caspian Sea, irrigating the steppes as it goes. Shortly before Tchaikovsky's birth it was linked westwards via St Petersburg to the Baltic Sea by an amazing feat of engineering, a man-made canal system (the Volga-Baltic Waterway), hundreds of miles long.
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