On the Hills of Manchuria

This recital-length Russian piece has been a crowdpleaser for over 100 years, and James L. King III’s arrangement captures the emotion and essence of the piece perfectly.

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On the Hills of Manchuria (Russian: На сопках Маньчжурии) is a waltz composed in 1906 by Ilya Alekseevich Shatrov.

The original title of the waltz was The Mokshansky Regiment on the Hills of Manchuria and referred to an incident during the Battle of Mukden, the disastrous final land battle of the Russo-Japanese War, when the Mokshansky Infantry Regiment was encircled by Japanese forces for 11 days, during which it sustained considerable casualties. Shatrov served in the regiment as bandmaster and composed the tune on returning from the war. In 1906, Shatrov met Oskar Knaube, a local music shop owner. Knaube helped the composer publish his work and later, he acquired ownership of it.

The piece achieved colossal success and Knaube boasted of having published some 82 different editions of the piece. Soon after its publication, the poet Stepan Petrov, better known by the pen-name of Skitalets, wrote lyrics, which contributed to its wider success. The original lyrics from Petrov concern fallen soldiers lying in their graves in Manchuria, but alternative words were later used with the tune, especially during World War II.

During the 1990s, the song was featured in two films: Close to Eden and Onegin. The song was also included in the 2010 movie Fortress of War.

Key: D minor

Mood: moving and serious

Pedagogy: rondo form, first and second endings, fingering, hand position changes


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