Music Unites Us: Minka Variations

The first collaboration was with Nina Tritenichenko. She sings and plays Bayan Accordion, an all-button accordion that is common throughout the world, including her home country of Ukraine. The tune she chose was “Ikhav Kozak za Dunaj” (“The Cossack Rode beyond the Danube”). This folk song became popular throughout the world by its German name, “Schöne Minke” (“Beautiful Minke”).

Nina had a specific set of variations on the Minka tune that she wanted to perform. Because her accordion part was set in stone, my task was to build around it with the orchestra. I began by composing a grand overture-style introduction–a fanfare that established the tone of what was to come. Next, she sang a verse of the song to introduce the theme. Each variation became increasingly complex and exciting, with orchestration to match.

Some favorite moments in this arrangement include:

4:00 I turned this variation into a duet with the concertmaster! It added texture to the solo accordion and let an orchestra member momentarily come to the foreground.

4:42 I’m a huge fan of arpeggios that sweep through the orchestra like a harp. This one worked magnificently.

5:00 This interlude gave Nina a breather and created anticipation for the final, flashy variation.

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