Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Theodore Bikel – Songs Of A Russian Gypsy

   Russian romance is the world for itself. The stages of development since early romantic songs to 20th century romance could be characterized as different subgenres and styles. Russian lyrical poetry, with many poems of best Russian poets, connected to the musical form derived from classical or folk tradition created autonomous phenomenon of Russian romantic song tradition. And one of the best parts of Russian song tradition is romance. There are many subgenres of romance since, most significant is classical romance (klassicheskiy romans) which was composed by professional composers and performed by professional artists. Very popular subgenre was also gorodskoy romans which was written by professionals but performed and spread as folk music. On base of gorodskoy romans and Russian folk songs in middle of 19th century had formed gypsy romance. Depending on source other subgenres like kazachiy romans or zhestokiy romans. The romance tradition had an impact on many other song genres, Russian chanson, blatnaya pesnya or Odessa beat.
   Extremely popular in Russian society, serving basic musical and poetic language formulas, romance has clear impact on many other genres and different social groups. It was one of the foundations for creativity of multinational society. But wide audience remembers and appreciates romance contribution of Gypsies. First as the source of musical inspiration for Russian composers, than as a chance for the Roma people to earn better as musicians and mark their presence in Russian music and society. Gypsy romance is significant part of Russian tradition, so it is in constant use as a set of universal musical and performance idioms. It could be considered even as a kind of style designation. Emotional intensity of minor key melodies, combination of melodiousness and declamatory, accompaniment of guitar and Russian accordion (bayan) with vocal melody in bass, this kind of romance was most characteristic and most popular.

Theodore Bikel – Chants Russes Tziganes (1958)

   There were many famous performers of Gypsy romance, and only some of them were recorded and published in 20th century. A bunch of romances was in common use. Some of these most popular were sung also in other languages. One of performers was Theodore Bikel. Born in Vienna actor and singer became famous for his perfect performances of Yiddish theatre and folk songs. He was singing in Yiddish, Hebrew, German, English, Russian and other languages. As 14 years old he emigrated from Europe and lived in Israel. In 1954 he moved to USA and one year later debuted with an album Israeli Folk Songs published by Elektra. This label was his long time support, releasing his records from 1955 to 1968. In 1958 Elektra published five albums with various repertoire. One of 1958 titles was the album Songs of a Russian Gypsy. It was also published as the license edition of Mode disques label in France as Chants Russes Tziganes
   The program of this collection shows 14 popular songs. From Beryuzoviye Kalyechke, classical Yekhali Tsigane and most famous Dve Gitari, with some characteristic songs like Kagda Ya Pyann and instrumental dances like Svyetit Myseats and Karobushka, lyrical and love songs Kak Stranno and Nichevo, Nichevo, Nichevo are main current of this collection. The second side is opening with blockbuster Chto Mnye Goyre. This part presents love songs of both Gypsy and Russian folk tradition Dyen i Noch and Metyelitsa, full of sadness Snilsya Mnye Sad, and characteristic gypsy romances Karabli and Sudarinya, closing this program with a convivial verve. This three star recording is worth remembering. 

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