BAM 2003

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the belair collection

Russian Film Music II
The music embraces us with a “genuine” world  of romance, suspense and tragic human drama

The first motion pictures to appear in Russia were the pioneering works of the Lumière brothers which were imported from France in 1894 as part of the festivities celebrating the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II. Within little more than a decade, a thriving film industry was forging ahead in Russia. However, in addition to the turmoil of the 1917 Revolution, World War I caused the film industry to come to a grinding halt making film production and distribution virtually non-existent. Famine, civil war and a foreign blockade prevented the import of films and equipment from abroad.In an attempt to aid the ailing film industry, Lenin nationalized it on August 27, 1919 and put it under control of Anatoly Lunacharsky, head of the People’s Commissariat of Enlightenment.  Lunacharsky demanded the production of agitational films (known as “agit films”) in the form of short documentaries or rehearsed scenes intended to glorify the 1917 Revolution and show the advantages of communism. The general belief was that the film industry had been the media of profit-hungry capitalists before the revolution but now it was to be a source of education and inspiration for the people. In 1922, the government centralized control of the film industry by creating Goskino, the State Cinema Enterprise, which centralized control of the film industry. Goskino was renamed Sovkino in 1926. It was the most powerful of the national film organizations and controlled distribution of all foreign films using the profits to subsidize domestic film-making.

Because Soviet censors often made changes to foreign films, it often took between one and five years for a foreign film to be released in the Soviet theaters. The Russian film titles were rarely simple translations and the film dialogue was often changed to reflect a more politically-correct viewpoint. Because the films were silent, the censors could simply change the titles that would substitute for spoken dialogue. Suddenly, a suicide could become a murder or a street fight could become a workers’ revolt against capitalist oppression. Thus, one may not be blamed for assuming that V.I. Lenin had an eye for the obvious propaganda value of the 20s’ fast-developing film industry when he once said: “Cinematography is the most important of all the arts.” We can surely add to Lenin’s quote that music is one of the most important elements in the art of making movies. Considerable research and preparation has gone into recording both albums of Russian Film Music (Spring 2000) and Russian Film Music II (Spring 2002). From a selection of more than eighty movies, stretching from the first Russian soundtrack movie, New Babylon (Shostakovich), in 1929 to Petrov’s I Am Walking in Moscow, a total of thirty-eight compositions by nineteen  composers were selected for both albums. When listening, one will notice that the music naturally reflects  the  gradual  change  from  the  30s’  “modern” classical  compositions  of  Shostakovich  through five decades to the popular postmodern music of Andrey Petrov.

The very first composer to write original film music was Camille Saint-Saens. In 1908, he wrote a suite for strings, piano, and harmonium for the film, L’assassinat de Duc Guise. Similar efforts for composing music for cinema were ongoing in Germany and the USA and in 1928, a German composer, E. Majze, composed music for the Berlin premiere of the world-famous Battleship Potemkin by S.Eisenstein. The first original film music in the USSR was written by Shostakovich in 1929 for the film
, New Babylon. In the 30s, Russian film music took its first steps towards independence from the films themselves and gradually moved from the decorative, inflexible propaganda role of the 20s into the emotional depth of the characters-awakening compassion and nostalgic feelings in the listeners’ hearts and bringing tears to their eyes. Even though propaganda and censure continued to play a major part in movie production during the “Iron Curtain” period, if one asks any Russian of that generation if he or she enjoyed those Russian movies, the answer would be an enthusiastic “yes!” During that difficult period there was an extraordinary need to be “carried away” - dreaming of wealth and romance- and in this sense, the film music was of great comfort. While watching a movie enhanced by today’s exceptionally high-quality sound production, it is possible we have come to take the music for granted. We hardly notice the music- as though it is a shadow in the background. Yet, its ability to color silent scenes and bridge pauses in conversation, or create atmospheres of high drama, tension and suspense should never be underestimated. The music is always there, playing a major part in creating the identity of the movie. Many movies are remembered and identified only because of their wonderful music. Although some films will be forgotten, the music lives on. We tend to forget that once recorded the music is forever.

Portraying some of the most moving and thrilling music of all time, we have chosen to let the magnificent Russian Film Music II do all “the talking” especially since it would require extensive space to describe all  the movies whose sound tracks are recorded on this album. The music, so persuading and powerful, embraces us with a “genuine” world of romance, suspense and tragic human drama. Thus, these films are elevated from would otherwise, in many cases, have been quite ordinary thrillers or plain romantic movies.

The Russian Philharmonic Orchestra

 Russian Philharmonic Orchestra. 

The Russian Philharmonic Orchestra is firmly rooted in Russia’s rich musical traditions. The orchestra has achieved an impressive and outstanding musical quality by drawing its musicians from the highest ranks of Russia’s most famous orchestras such as The Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, the State Symphony Orchestra, the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra. Like the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra, originally formed as a recording ensemble, has now gone on to receive high acclaim for its concert appearances as well.

Sergei Skripka, conductor of the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra for this album, is the leading and most-renowned conductor of film music in Russia. He has conducted many orchestras to record the sound tracks for famous Russian films and has a music library in Moscow containing over nine-thousand film music scores.  


Russian Film Music II


  1. Andrey Petrov, “I Am Walking in Moscow” from I Am Walking in Moscow, 1963
2. Aram Khachaturian, “Waltz” from Masquerade, 1944
3. Dmitry Shostakovich, “Dance” from The Gadfly, 1955
4. Viktor Lebedev, “French Theme” from Go Ahead Marine Guards, 1987
5. Dmitry Shostakovich, “Tahiti-Trot” (Tea for Two), 1928
6. Iisak Dunaevskij, “Song of Youngsters” from Volga – Volga, 1938
7. Vitaly Geviksmann, “A Letter to a Soldier” from The World War, 1978
8. Aram Khachaturian, “Romance” from Masquerade, 1944
9. Jan Frenkel, “Pursuit” from New Adventures of the Untouchables, 1968
10. Dmitry Shostakovich, “Waltz” from Suite for Jazz Orchestra, 1934
11. Sergei Prokofiev, “Romance” from Leutenant Kizae, 1934.
12. Gennady Gladkov “Formula of Love” from Ordinary Miracle, 1978
13. Dmitry Kabalevsky, “Improvisation” from Petersburg Nights, 1934
14. Valery Zubkov, “Meeting” from Gipsy, 1979
Andrey Petrov, “Waltz” from Beware of the Car, 1966
Sergei Prokofiev, “Dance” from Ivan Grosny, 1944
17. Dmitry Shostakovich, “Waltz” from Return of Maxim, 1937
18. Arno Babadjanjan, “Nocturne” from Documentary, 1980
Viktor Lebedev, “Don’t look down your Nose" from Go ahead Marine Guards, 1987                                                    Playing time 62:07


Russian Philharmonic Orchestra. Sergei Skripka, Conductor

                 download digital quality MPEG3 sound sample
           Free MP3  track no. 1 I am walking in Moscow


 DDD Digital Recording  Moscow Radio Studio 5,  3/2002 
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