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ClassicsOnline Home » Russian Romance
Alexander Varlamov, a composer of Moldavian ancestry, was born in Moscow in 1801 and was at first self-taught in music, before becoming a chorister of the court chapel in St Petersburg under Bortnyansky. His later career took him to The Hague as director of the choir of the Russian ambassador, with an appointment to the Russian wife of Prince William of Orange, Princess Anna Pavlovna. After his return to Russia in 1823 he became involved in the theatre, with appointment in 1832 as Kapellmeister to the imperial theatres in Moscow, a position he held in 1843. He spent his final years in St Petersburg. As a composer he produced a quantity of instrumental music and songs. Snow Flurries is characteristic of his lighter work, in its folk idiom, contrasted with the more academic central episode.
Boguslavskys Dark is the Night is of a different complexion, a work in an even clearer folk idiom, a style preserved throughout. It is followed here by Moscow Nights, the work of Vasily Solovyov-Sedoy, at one time the leader of a balalaika band and very much later a student at the Leningrad Conservatory. He retained a strong interest in folk-music, the spirit of which inspires his romantic evocation of evenings near Moscow, originally a song, and here arranged for violin and orchestra.
The remaining works on the present programme are either folk-songs or songs in folk-style. Little Snowball is typical, with its change of mood from the tender to the energetic, while Down the Volga River depicts a less familiar aspect of the river. Dark Eyes is among the best known Russian songs, while The Red Sarafan, by Varlamov, has won the status of a folk-song. Stenka Razin celebrates the achievements of the seventeenth century Cossack leader, who mustered an army of 200,000 in the Volga region in a rising against the nobility, a precursor, as the music suggests, of the 1917 revolution, before his capture and execution by the Muscovites. Meadowland by Lev Knipper, with words by the popular Victor Gusev, part of the Red Army composer Knippers fourth symphony, is evocative, while the Song of the Volga Boatmen is familiar enough, here given in a particularly allusive arrangement, with distinct suggestions of Tchaikovsky. This leads to the folk-song The Light and the final Along the Peterskaya Road, a trail well explored by Stravinsky.
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