Unbelievable story of Russian Song No 11

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Unbelievable story of Russian Song No 11

Post by vladimirdounin »


Tchaikovsky's Children's Album is one of the most popular works in the world. Every pianist on the planet has probably played at least some pieces from this album. The album consists of 24 pieces, most of which are known, loved and, of course, played in every corner of the earth. However, among these beauties there is one ugly Cinderella that no one wants to play or listen to. This is "Russian Song" - №11. Even famous pianists avoid it and sometimes just "forget to play" it, performing only 23 pieces in concerts instead of 24.

However, it is impossible to avoid performing this piece if you are recording a record. If there are 24 songs on the cover, there should also be 24 songs on the disc.

At the St. Petersburg Conservatory in Russia, I was a student of the wonderful musician V. Nielsen
And one day my teacher had to record on the record Tchaikovsky's Children's Album. He rented a house in the village, brought a grand piano there and began to prepare for the recording. It was a hot summer and the windows were always wide open. Therefore, the whole village heard the sounds of the children's album for many hours every day.

And, of course, my teacher worked a lot on "Russian Song". He still wanted to find a way of performing in which this song would not be so ugly. And his efforts resulted in the fact that the villagers once gathered near his house. At first they stood in silence, then they began to make noise, and then very offensive cries were heard. "How can you, professor, teach others when you yourself cannot play even our simple song?"

I must say that my teacher was very fond of talking with the common audience about music. And he often gave us examples of how a cloakroom attendant, a cleaning lady, a firefighter on stage, etc. made very apt, precise observations that can be very useful to any performer. And in that case, of course, he did not fail to take the opportunity to talk to the people. And he learned something very interesting from the villagers.

But before I tell you about it, I ask you to listen to my recording of this "Russian song". I play it exactly as my teacher taught me to play it. It is only a few seconds long. So I play it three times: slow, medium and fast. And I very much ask you to try to guess: what exactly in the performance of this song could have caused the anger and mass protest of the villagers?

Please, watch after 4'30"


I hope that you listened carefully to my recording, but did not find anything wrong with either the song or its performance. I think that many generations have sung and loved this song exactly as it sounds in my fast version. This is a typical dance folk song. No worse and no less beautiful than any other.
So why is it that everyone, including the villagers, can not stand this song?

The trouble is that neither my teacher played it like that, nor all other pianists in the world play it like that. Instead, everyone plays the piece the way Tchaikovsky wrote it. He shifted the bar line in this piece one step earlier. And the song immediately turned into musical nonsense. If you strictly follow the notes exactly as they are written, then the Russian song sounds something like this:

please, watch after 8'01"


No wonder that the villagers hated this disgusting music so much and could not stand it. It is absolutely normal for everyone who really loves music.

I can assume that Tchaikovsky made this vivisection for the sake of a completely false idea in my opinion that music should be as similar as possible to the spoken language. "I want the music to express the word directly," - composer Dargomyzhsky wrote.

But good singers don't sing colloquially, they sing music. And the stress in musical words is just as different from the stress in colloquial speech as our movements when swimming differ from movements when walking. A different environment requires a different kind of movements, different actions, a different way of pronouncing musical or colloquial words.

I want to urge all pianists, all musicians in the world to stop mocking this absolutely normal, beautiful, lovely folk song and play it the way our listeners used to sing it and to love it.
Vladimir Dounin
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Re: Unbelievable story of Russian Song No 11

Post by ton312 »

Thank you for the great story! Unfortunately, I couldn't watch these videos because have no access.

I love this Album, but I did not think that this Russian Song was undeservedly bypassed. Interested to play it the way your teacher!
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