Soviet composer and choir conductor
The Red Army Chorus: The Best of the Original Ensemble
They spoke about it
The A.V. Alexandrov Ensemble of the Soviet Army, twice-decorated with the Order of the Red Banner and Red Star, is one of the foremost artistic groups of the ex-USSR. It bears the name of its founder and first director, Alexander V. Alexandrov, professor of the Moscow Conservatory, talented composer and conductor, and deservedly, a people’s artist of the USSR.
The first Ensemble took stage on October 12, 1928 in the Central Palace of the Soviet Army. It was composed of 12 people — a vocal octet, two dancers, and two musicians, but by the mid-1930’s, the Ensemble had already grown into a large performing group, becoming a large male choir with the orchestra and dance group.
In their first works, the Ensemble told through their art of the exploits of the regiments and divisions of the Red Army fighting on the fronts of the Civil War. Their first programme, a musical-literary montage entitled “The 22nd Krasnodar Division in Song,” aroused great interest, attracting press attention and widespread praise. “Clear, interesting, and necessary work,” said Pravda.
The activities of the Chorus answered a growing need in the souls of listeners, and laid the groundwork for the growth of a new form of Soviet musical expression — a military song and dance ensemble. The Chorus attempted to respond nicely and concretely to the important events of the country. In 1929, the Chorus went to the former Soviet Far East, along with troops working on the Far Eastern Railway. They reached their audience any way they could, by trucks, carts, and just plain on foot. In the worst kind of conditions they gave several concerts a day. In the 30’s, the Ensemble was continually on the road in the military districts, performing to sailors, and undertaking tours of major construction sites. In 1937, the Chorus went abroad for the first time, representing Soviet Art at the Paris Exposition. Its appearance in France met with exceptional success. The Exposition jury gave the Soviet group its highest award — the “Grand Prix.” An equally successful tour of Czechoslovakia followed. In 1938, the group returned to the Far East, where in the space of five months they played to towns, garrisons, and warships of the Pacific fleet. Then the group was sent to Lake Khasan where it gave a concert series for the troops in action there against the Japanese.
During WWII, the Red Army Chorus gave more than 1500 concerts on the front and rear. The artists appeared before men about to go into battle; in gun emplacements and airfields, and in hospitals. Until 1989, the Chorus had visited about 40 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and America. Many influential cultural circles in these countries attended their performances with lively interest and attention. Many clippings from the foreign press testify to the success of their appearances. The Montreal paper “La Presse” said of their Canadian Tour of 1987, “The chorus, under B. Alexandrov’s direction, is unarguably the best in the world of the genre. The concert was a display of pyrotechnic virtuosity.”
During forty years (1946-1987) the talented composer and conductor Boris Alexandrov took over the Ensemble. He not only kept the best of his father’s work, but took the group farther along the road to perfection. His services to Soviet Art have been rewarded with the titles of Hero of Socialist Labour, People’s Artist of the USSR, Major-General, Lenin Laureate, and State Prize-Winner of the RSFSR. On their last tour in 1989, the Ensemble included a male chorus section, a mixed dance group, and an orchestra; in all about 200 performers. Most of the soldier-artists have a specialized musical or choreographic education.
Here are the greatest moments of these two memorable tours. The conductors are Col. Anatoly Maltsev and Igor Agafonnikov. Ivan Bukreev, Edward Dabkovski, Leonid Pshenichni, Vasily Shtefutsa, and Boris Zhaivoronok are among the most popular soloists of the Chorus.
The russian musical instruments
The balalaika: this popular Russian chordaphone is a member of the guitar family and is an 18th century descendant of the dombra. The balalaika is characterized by a triangular body that is made in 6 different sizes. The balalaika has a flat back, slightly arched belly, narrow neck bearing 4 moveable frets and 3 strings.
The dombra: this forerunner of the balalaika is a lute-like instrument with round body, long neck and 3 metal strings. The dombra is made in 3 sizes.
The bayan: this is the chromatic accordion of Russia.
Russian bassoon: this bassoon originated with Regibo’s upright serpent model of 1789. It is made of wood, in 3 or 4 detachable sections, terminating in a straight brass or painted bell or head. Russian horn: this horn is a straight or slightly curved wide-bore Russian hunting horn made in a great variety of sizes, from 20-210 cm, in copper or brass.