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Red Army Choir Russian Favourites
The songs recorded by the Red Army Choir for this compact disc fall into four groups. The first consists of old soldiers’ songs (Farewell of Slavianka, The Brave Lads of the Don, soldiers’ Chorus from the opera The Decembristsi). The second includes songs of the Civil War (O field, my field, We are the red cavalry and There, far away, beyond the river) and the third songs of what is known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War, the struggle against Nazi Germany (The Sacred War, There marched the soldiers, In the forest by the combat-line, The sun set beyond the river and On the road). The fourth group is of popular Russian folk-songs (Song of the Volga Boatmen, Troika, The Cliff and Dark Eyes).
Farewell of Slavianka was composedin 1912 by V. Agapkin, a cavalry-man and student of trumpet and composition at the Tambov Music College. The music is based on events in the Balkan wars of liberation from the five-hundred-year-long power of the Ottoman Empire and was dedicated to all Slav women and various texts have been written to change the work into a song. The present recording uses words by A. Fedotov. The work has enjoyed enormous popularity and was heard in Red Square on 7 November 1941, when it was played by massed bands as a prelude to the march of the troops to the front line. The same music was used by Polish patriots and in Bulgaria it has served as a standard item in military parades in Sofia and in the graduation ceremonies of army schools.
O field, my field is a choral episode from a symphony by L. Knipper, described by the writer as a poem about a Comsomol warrior. The first line of the text was written by the composer and the rest in 1924 by the poet Victor Gusev. The song has become widely popular at home and abroad and was described by the conductor Leopold Stokowsky as the best song of the twentieth century.
In 1919 the authors of The March of Budyonny, D. Pokrass and A. d’Actile (Frenkel), lived in Rostov-on-Don, a city at the time occupied by White Russian forces, working in the local show-group The One-Eyed Jimmy. In January 1920 the city was taken by the First Cavalry and the song commemorates that event, later taken into the repertory of the Red Army. Pokrass subsequently joined the Red Army and was composer to the First Cavalry .The song won immediate popularity and was soon known throughout the country.
1924 brought the first Comsomol song, something that had long been needed by the young people of the organization. The words were written by a Comsomol poet, N. Kool, who found a melody for it in his favourite Russian folk-song A sun has risen in Siberia. When Kool was serving in the army in Moscow, his comrades often complained of the lack of new songs, and he wrote for them There, far away, beyond the river, a song that soon won wider popularity, as soldiers returned from service to their own parts of the country, becoming itself a folk-song in its own right.
The Sacred War is a musical symbol of the Great Patriotic War. The words were written by V. Lebedev-Kurnachand were published in Izvestia on 24 June 1941. The music was written by A. Alexandrov on the same day and was immediately sung by the Red Army Choir, who performed it on 27 June at the Belorusky railway station, as the soldiers left for the front. The song, like a call to arms, was heard all over the country. In his memoirs Major-General A. Kronik describes one of the concerts at the front line: When we heard the sounds of The sacred War, which had become a genuine folk-song, the hearts of officers and men trembled within them, raw recruits and hardened soldiers, with their scars and moustaches, felt the same. Everyone clutched his rifle. I looked at the soldiers and officers, my brother-warriors, and with all my heart I felt their readiness for action. The song moved soldiers and also those left at home.
There marched the soldiers is a setting by B. Alexandrov of the 1949 poem of A. Dostal. The soldiers marched out to defend the motherland and succeeded in their task.
In the forest by the combat-line was written in 1943 by the composer M. Blanter and the poet H. Isakovsky. The sound of the old waltz, Dream of Autumn, is heard in the forest near the front line. The soldiers listen and remember their beloved, the peaceful life they led before the war. They understand that only through war can they reach their aim.
The authors of The sun set beyond the mountain, M. Blanter and A. Kovalenkov, tell of the return home of the soldiers, having defended their country against the enemy in a battle where some of their comrades have given their lives.
The Soldiers’ Chorus from V. Shaporin’s opera The Decembrists is sung by soldiers leaving across the Danube for war with Turkey and celebrating their own courage.
The Song of the Volga Boatmen is an old Russian folk-song, here arranged by B. Alexandrov. The boat menare hauling a heavy barge and sing to make their toil the lighter. The song, powerful and strong, suggests the character of Russia.
Troika has a text by F .Glinka and music arranged by V. Agarkov. As he journeys, the coachman tells his fare of his troubles, his separation from his beloved, who has married a rich old man that she cannot love.
The folk-song The Cliff tells us about a cliff overlooking the River Volga. Lofty and majestic, it recalls the hero Stenka Razin, a leader of the poor against seventeenth century Tsarist tyranny.
Hey, there’s the village is a Ukrainian folk-song, arranged by A. Alexandrov. A brave cossack rides back home from the war and dreams about his beloved.
The Volga Burlack’ s Song was written by A. Alexandrov and the poet O Kolychev. Its story was inspired by Ilya Repin’s picture The Volga Burlacks, representing the pain and toil of the Russian people.
Dark Eyes is a gypsy romance and had gained currency by the end of the nineteenth century. It is derived from a waltz by Waldteufel and has a text by E. Grebyonka: I met you, dark eyes, and fell in love with you for ever: you have ruined me, but I am happy to have controlled this great feeling of love.
The Brave Lads of the Don is a Russian folk-song, arranged by A. Mikhailov. It tells of events in the war of 1812 against Napoleon, when the daring warriors from the Don helped to defend Moscow, a symbol of the unity of the Russian people.
On the Road was written in 1945, the work of the composer A. Novikov and the poet L. Oshanin. On the road to war, one does not know one’s fate: Shots sound, the raven flies around…your friend lies dead in the grass, but we must not forget this road.
Moscow Nights is one of the most popular of Russian songs. It was written in 1956 by V. Solovyov-Sedo and the poet M. Matusovsky. A man in love asks his beloved not to forget these summer Moscow nights, where their love has been born.
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Red Army Choir: Russian Favourites