Russian Folk Songs (Ariadna Rybakova/ Miriam Arman/ Moscow Patriarchal Choir) (Naxos: 8.550781)
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Russian Folk Songs
Down the River Mother Volga
O the steppes
In the dark forest
The bell tolls
Snow falls in the street
Steppes, only steppes all around
O, the sweet night
Do not reproach me, do not blame
The troika-mail is running
The legend of the twelve highwaymen
The young man has flown like a bird
Along the river
The far-stretching lands of Russia, the severity and changeability of itsclimate, its frequent wars and ruinous internal strife and the insecurity of acentralised state that must control widely divergent ethnic groups have producedone constant factor, the enigmatic Slav soul, the spiritual abyss. Whatever nameis given to this phenomenon, understanding the Russian national character isdifficult, perhaps more easily approached through allegories, parables andmetaphors, through art.
Russian literature, from ancient manuscripts and the lay of Prince Igor'scampaign up to Solzhenitsin, Astafyev and the newest writers, presents a greatgallery of images striking in their psychological truthfulness. Especiallyvaluable to Russia is the culmination of spiritual search in the nineteenthcentury. At this time Russian literature crossed its own frontiers to becomesermon, liturgy, teacher and nurse. National character is not static but aliving organism, like a plant that is constantly changing, growing or withering.
National character is, in fact, not a state but a process. That is why, bearingin mind the genius of Push kin, Gogol, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Leskov, Dostoyevsky,Gorky, Sholokov, Platonov and Pasternak, we cannot feel in their creations theobject sought for in its movement and development. We are faced with books thatare not susceptible to further change in their inner structure.
The natural development of folk-lore was much hindered by technologicalprogress and for other reasons, the chief of them being that enemy of thecivilised world, television. Now, however, new transformations are taking place,new forms of thinking appear, but the universe remains, illuminated by theCreator in radiance of kindness, truth and beauty. Folk music, it seems, in itsvery simplicity, may allow the discovery of the mysteries of distant nations.
This music is not desiccated by the refinements of professionalism but is bornnaturally from the depth of life, love and suffering.
The pain and grandeur of Russian history, the joy and despair of the Russiancharacter, lies in the depths of Russian folk-lore. Unexpressed, blue andtender, in the words of the poet Sergey Yesenin, is an element perceptible in Downthe River Mother Volga. The people, exhausted by labour, keep in theirhearts so much warmth, mercy and tenderness to a nature that is sometimes cruelthat it seems there is no unkindness or injustice in the world, but onlybrotherhood and light. The melody of the song The bell tolls palpitatesand rises to Heaven, bringing new life to the vast tracts of Russia. The themeof the road, man's wandering, Push kin's versts and Gogol's three-horsecarriage flying like a magic bird touches us deeply, but the song itself is sofull of sadness and feeling that grief vanishes and the heart is aflame, apsychological paradox. Snow falls in the street expresses in its amorousand insinuating tones boundless admiration for the beauty of women, a feeling towhich surrender is unthinkable, chained by the chains of perpetual slavery. Thetheme of death in Steppes, only steppes all around lacks the sexualimplications of Nietzsche or Wagner. Instead there is a quiet acceptance offate, without fear or protest, a dignified submission. The last recollections inthe face of cruel death on the road are the father, the mother, the wife, thelast with a word of parting and wedding-ring, the symbol of sacred wedlock,chastity and holiness. All is gratitude to the Lord for everything, withoutworldly ambition.
One of the best folk-songs is O, the sweet night. In theswinging of the pendulum of minor tonality can be heard lonely sadness, with nosobbing romanticism: parents are sadly remembered, the woman, though cruel, istenderly addressed as "my beloved": now only night is left, the onlyfriend, a cold autumn night, but loved and offering escape. The troika-mailis running epitomizes the long-cherished Russian dream of destroying thepower of money that makes one man humiliate another: bored, the nobleman asksthe coachman about his life and the latter opens his heart, to be met byinterest that is feigned and superficial. In The legend of the twelvehighwaymen there is an opening declamation, the bold flourish associatedwith history songs: God awakened the conscience of Kudeyar, the robber, and hewent to the monastery in penitence. The elegiac melancholy of The young manhas flown like a bird is no selfish whimper but meek and calm in itsresignation. Push kin's words, "Some friends are gone, others faraway", express the feeling of the song of some outcast in Evening bell, drawnfrom the verses of the blind poet and prophet Ivan Kozlov. Guelder rose isa dream of love, interrupted by the rough interjections of the choir, echoingthe eternal tragedy of Russia. Neighbour is a playful song and Alongthe river is bright and cheerful, full of humour, a metaphorical descriptionof man and his relationship with nature. The collection ends with the best knownof all songs Ochni chernye (Dark eyes).
Patriarchal Choir, Moscow
The Patriarchal Choir, Moscow directed by Ariadna Rybakova was formed in 1983on the initiative of the head of the Publishing Department, Metropolitan Pitirimof Volokolamsk and Yuriev, and consists of talented professional singers. Thechoir takes part in the services of the Moscow Church of the Resurrection,basing its work on old Russian choral tradition, from the 17th century to theworks of Bortnyansky, Rachmaninov and others. Concert tours abroad began in1987.
Ariadna Rybakova was born into a family of musicians and showed an earlyinterest in music, singing in church with her mother, and later studyingconducting at the Gnesin State Institute in Moscow. In church she sang in achoir directed by her father and sometimes worked as his assistant, whileleading the children's choir of the Gnesin Institute. In 1972 she started herwork as choir conductor at the Church of the Resurrection and since 1980 thechoir has embarked on concert activity, with the blessing of the MetropolitanPitirim of the Moscow Patriarchate.