Russian Music Examples

Below are some examples of the development of the Russian opera form:

Cavatina from Life for the Tsar, composed by Mikhail Glinka, performed by Anna Netrebko (start at 3:00 mark)

La Donna E Mobile from Rigoletto, composed by Giuseppe Verdi, performed by Andrea Bocelli

The Swan Princess Aria from Act IV from Tale of Tsar Saltan, composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, performed by Anna Netrebko

As you’ll notice, the first and third arias are from Russian operas, while the second is from an Italian opera. Mikhail Glinka is considered the first major Russia composer, with his opera, Life for the Tsar, the first successful Russian opera. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was a member of the Mighty Five, a Russian nationalist music group, who advanced the Russian form to a level independent from western Europe. In listening to the two examples, the evolution of the Russian form is evident in the lush and melodic tone of Rimsky-Korsakov’s aria. Interestingly, if you compare the Glinka and Verdi examples, it is evident of Glinka’s quoting of the Italian opera form in their similarities of instrumentation, lightness, and simplicity. The link is important to establish the history of Russian composers using foreign source material in order to break into new art forms.

Similarly, here is an example of early Russian rock music:

Ivan Bodhidharma performed by Aquarium

London Calling performed by The Clash

The plagiarism is quite evident in the second example. It can be argued that in order for these new forms to take hold in Russia, early composers and song writers had to copy ideas from foreign sources as they established the Russian version of that form. In the Soviet rock music’s example, criticism of the plagiarism occurred and several of the early Soviet rock groups were not successful as a result of similar plagiarism cases.

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Zhuk 2013 – Review of “Okna otkroi” by Wickstrom

Zhuk 2013 – Review

I’ve included this review in my research, not for the book being quoted, but because of Zhuk’s critique of missing information in the book at the end of the review. He provides a quick synopsis of why Soviet rock music had problems developing, specifically because early groups plagiarized from western groups.

Vulliamy 2013 – Review of “How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin”

Vulliamy 2013 – Review

An interesting review and summary of Leslie Woodhead’s “How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin: the Untold Story of a Noisy Revolution.” Woodhead, who was responsible for the Beatles first TV appearance, chronicles the importance of the Beatles to the young Soviet generation of the time, Woodhead  arguing that the Beatles served as many this generation’s first touch with democracy.

Moscow News 2012 – Russian Rock Retrospective

Russia Rock Retrospective

This press release covers the two-day Legends of Russian Rock festival which occurred last September. It gives a basic history of several of the Russian bands which formed following the import of foreign rock music, as well as giving a brief history of Russian rock music and how it was able to form during the late Soviet era of the 60s-80s.

Burgess 2013 – “Musicians seen as Cold War Weapons”

“Musicians Seen as Cold War Weapons”

Wikileaks released a memo detailing a list of desired American rock stars to come to the Soviet Union from 1975: among the talent were Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. This article briefly looks at the influence of American jazz music on communist culture during the 70s and 80s and how the desire for American music began to grow in East Germany and the USSR. The memo reveals a snippet of the importance culture played in the Cold War, as it was a way for both sides to communicate to one another, as well as inspiring Soviet citizens to revitalize their culture, which, at the time, relied heavily on the replicating Imperial culture and the banning of rock music.

Kiriya 2012 – The Culture of Subversion and Russian Media Landscape

Kiriya 2012

This article examines the roots of piracy and underground media cultures in Russia during the Soviet era and its effect on today’s culture. Kiriya’s main observation argues that through the “non-formal tradition rules”, the Soviets experienced cultural growth through illegal means. However, with the fall of Communism, piracy was still somewhat permitted (Kiriya 452). It was during this time that piracy grew to unprecedented levels and today’s market is working to diminish those levels, meanwhile the desire for “non-formal rules” has grown due to new censorship methods. Kiriya’s connection of piracy in literature and the written word as a result of censorship follows a historical pattern dating back to the Imperial era is not a revelation, but his study does delve into why Russians have resorted to such tactics in order to retain a free flow of information, in certain cases.