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An introduction to Russian music through the ages

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— Mikhail Glinka: The Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila (1842), performed by Yevgeny Mravinsky and the Leningrad Philharmonic.

Glinka was the first of Russia’s great romantic composers. His works inspired a generation of Russians to composed orchestral music, opera and ballet based on traditional Russian themes and culture in the context of the large modern romantic orchestra. In particular he inspired the so called ‘Mighty Handful’ also known as the ‘Great 5’ composers: Mily Balakirev, Modest Mussorgsky, César Cui, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexander Borodin.

–Modest Mussorgsky, The Coronation Scene from Boris Godunov (1874), performed by Nikolai Golovanov and the Orchestra and Chorus of the Bolshoi Theatre.

In many ways Boris Godunov remains the finest of all Russian operas. The most popular version was orchestrated by Rimsky-Korsakov, a monumental composer in his own right. This particular version is conducted by my favourite conductor of all time, Nikolai Golovanov. Whilst there are comparatively few recordings of Golovanov, the ones that do exist are peerless. I highly recommend getting your hands on any and all of his recorded works.

— Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphonies 4 (1878), 5 (1888) and 6 1893), performed by Yevgeny Svetlanov and the State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR.

Tchaikovsky is Russia’s most famous composer and a gift to the world. What Beethoven was for the late classical period, Tchaikovsky was for the high romantic period. Tchaikovsky truly had it all. He was a master of melody, leitmotif, orchestration, rhythmic intrigue and narrative. It is personally difficult to narrow down his great legacy to a few works, but generally, his final three numbered symphonies ought to serve as a good introduction.  After Golovanov, Yevgeny Svetlanov remains my other favourite Russian maestro. His command of the orchestra is magnificent, his ability to take the  music to exciting heights is simply, magical.

 

 

 

Sergei Taneyev: Overture to Oresteia (1895), performed by Gennady Rozhdestvensky and The Grand Symphony Orchestra of All-Union Radio and Television,

Taneyev was a student of Tchaikovsky and from his teacher inherited a brilliant sense of melody, moving chordal textures and sheer aesthetic romanticism. The overture to the opera Oresteia is sublime as is Gennady Rozhdestvensky’s deeply visceral interpretation of it.

–Alexander Scriabin: ‘Prometheus: The Poem of Fire’ (1910), performed by  Yevgeny Svetlanov and the State Symphony Orchestra of the USSR.

Scriabin brought the Russian orchestral tradition into the 20th century and remains one of the finest composers in history. Throughout his five symphonies and scores of solo piano compositions, Scriabin musically evolved from b being a late romantic to a pioneering modernist over the course of his life. His use of dissonance, the octatonic scale and unique orchestrations make him a wonder to behold. He was also a pioneer in the field of musical- kinetic art.

His final symphonic poem, Prometheus was intended to be performed alongside a ‘light organ’, a machine which would throw light onto the stage behind the orchestra to reflect the changing dynamics and moods of the piece. Scriabin developed a precise system in which each note in the musical scale would be represented by a corresponding colour. Whilst the light organ was not ready for the 1910 premier of the work, later performances did employ it. Scriabin’s theories on light and music proved to be highly influential on the great Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky.

–Aram Khachaturian: Symphony 3 (1947), performed by Kirill Kondrashin and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.

Some may object to me putting this on the list as Khachaturian was an ethnic Armenian. However, he was born in Tiflis in the Russian Empire (later Tbilisi in what is now Georgia) and spent his career in Moscow. Khachaturian is another great modernist whose musical sophistication is often overlooked in the west. His use of octatonicism is often jazzy whilst many of his themes are unmistakably Armenian.

I find all of his symphonic works to be deeply moving. They are sonically challenging yet deeply emotionally accessible. His 3rd Symphony is actually symphonic poem which is thrilling, moving, enraging and calming, all at once. Kirill Kondrashin is one of the finest Soviet conducts and his interpretation of the work remains the best.

Alexander Alexandrov: The Sacred War (1941).

Alexandrov is best known as the founder of the Alexandrov Ensemble, often referred to as the Red Army Choir. The Sacred War is a beautiful song which holds a profound meaning to many as it was written during the height of the Great Patriotic War. Below is a video of it performed on the 9th of May.

The Singing Guitars

The Singing Guitars were one of the most famous of the so called ‘VIA’ pop groups which emerged in the late 1960s, the easy listening though highly enjoyable sounds won acclaim throughout the world. A playlist is below

Horizont: Horizont (1977).

Horizont were one of Russia’s first and finest progressive rock bands. The use of synthesisers and processed guitar makes of rich tapestry of sounds where an era when rockers dared to dream.

Autograph: We Need Peace (1986)

Autograph were a great late-prog rock band from Russia, their songs are sophisticated, global and very catchy.

Viktor Tsoi and KINO

Viktor Tsoi is quite simply, a legend. His poetic lyrics and charisma endeared him to the hearts of millions around the world. Russians of all ages rocked out to his music and in spite of his tragic death at the age of 28, his music remains popular. KINO were the Russian Beatles in many ways. They’re just ‘the rock band’. Here’s a live performance from 1990, later that year Tsoi would die.

So there you have it. A very short list of some of the wonders of Russian culture which according to the moronic Louise Mensch do not exist. I started writing this piece feeling quite angry, but after listening to all of this wonderful music, I can’t say that I am any more. The joys of Russian music are an antidote to the joylessness of a failed western politician.

I’ll end with another piece by Alexander Alexandrov, the anthem of the Soviet Union (from 1944) and the current anthem of the Russian Federation. There are many beautiful anthems in the world, but for me and millions of others this is simply the best. It is a work of art and it is difficult to hear with dry eyes. Enjoy!

For further listening please see this Spotify Playlist for more than 90 hours worth of Russian music.

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Constantinople: Ukrainian Church leader is now uncanonical

October 12 letter proclaims Metropolitan Onuphry as uncanonical and tries to strong-arm him into acquiescing through bribery and force.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The pressure in Ukraine kept ratcheting up over the last few days, with a big revelation today that Patriarch Bartholomew now considers Metropolitan Onuphy “uncanonical.” This news was published on 6 December by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (running under the Moscow Patriarchate).

This assessment marks a complete 180-degree turn by the leader of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, and it further embitters the split that has developed to quite a major row between this church’s leadership and the Moscow Patriarchate.

OrthoChristian reported this today (we have added emphasis):

A letter of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine was published yesterday by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in which the Patriarch informed the Metropolitan that his title and position is, in fact, uncanonical.

This assertion represents a negation of the position held by Pat. Bartholomew himself until April of this year, when the latest stage in the Ukrainian crisis began…

The same letter was independently published by the Greek news agency Romfea today as well.

It is dated October 12, meaning it was written just one day after Constantinople made its historic decision to rehabilitate the Ukrainian schismatics and rescind the 1686 document whereby the Kiev Metropolitanate was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church, thereby, in Constantinople’s view, taking full control of Ukraine.

In the letter, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that after the council, currently scheduled for December 15, he will no longer be able to carry his current title of “Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.”

The Patriarch immediately opens his letter with Constantinople’s newly-developed historical claim about the jurisdictional alignment of Kiev: “You know from history and from indisputable archival documents that the holy Metropolitanate of Kiev has always belonged to the jurisdiction of the Mother Church of Constantinople…”

Constantinople has done an about-face on its position regarding Ukraine in recent months, given that it had previously always recognized the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate as the sole canonical primate in Ukraine.

…The bulk of the Patriarch’s letter is a rehash of Constantinople’s historical and canonical arguments, which have already been laid out and discussed elsewhere. (See also here and here). Pat. Bartholomew also writes that Constantinople stepped into the Ukrainian ecclesiastical sphere as the Russian Church had not managed to overcome the schisms that have persisted for 30 years.

It should be noted that the schisms began and have persisted precisely as anti-Russian movements and thus the relevant groups refused to accept union with the Russian Church.

Continuing, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that his position and title are uncanonical:

Addressing you as ‘Your Eminence the Metropolitan of Kiev’ as a form of economia [indulgence/condescension—OC] and mercy, we inform you that after the elections for the primate of the Ukrainian Church by a body that will consist of clergy and laity, you will not be able ecclesiologically and canonically to bear the title of Metropolitan of Kiev, which, in any case, you now bear in violation of the described conditions of the official documents of 1686.

He also entreats Met. Onuphry to “promptly and in a spirit of harmony and unity” participate, with the other hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in the founding council of the new Ukrainian church that Constantinople is planning to create, and in the election of its primate.

The Constantinople head also writes that he “allows” Met. Onuphry to be a candidate for the position of primate.

He further implores Met. Onuphry and the UOC hierarchy to communicate with Philaret Denisenko, the former Metropolitan of Kiev, and Makary Maletich, the heads of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” and the schismatic “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” respectively—both of which have been subsumed into Constantinople—but whose canonical condemnations remain in force for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The hierarchs of the Serbian and Polish Churches have also officially rejected the rehabilitation of the Ukrainian schismatics.

Pat. Bartholomew concludes expressing his confidence that Met. Onuphry will decide to heal the schism through the creation of a new church in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Metropolitan Onuphry’s leadership is recognized as the sole canonical Orthodox jurisdiction in Ukraine by just about every other canonical Orthodox Jurisdiction besides Constantinople. Even NATO member Albania, whose expressed reaction was “both sides are wrong for recent actions” still does not accept the canonicity of the “restored hierarchs.”

In fact, about the only people in this dispute that seem to be in support of the “restored” hierarchs, Filaret and Makary, are President Poroshenko, Patriarch Bartholomew, Filaret and Makary… and NATO.

While this letter was released to the public eye yesterday, the nearly two months that Metropolitan Onuphry has had to comply with it have not been helped in any way by the actions of both the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Ukrainian government.

Priests of the Canonical Church in Ukraine awaiting interrogation by the State authorities

For example, in parallel reports released on December 6th, the government is reportedly accusing canonical priests in Ukraine of treason because they are carrying and distributing a brochure entitled (in English): The Ukrainian Orthodox Church: Relations with the State. The Attitude Towards the Conflict in Donbass and to the Church Schism. Questions and Answers.

In a manner that would do any American liberal proud, these priests are being accused of inciting religious hatred, though really all they are doing is offering an explanation for the situation in Ukraine as it exists.

A further piece also released yesterday notes that the Ukrainian government rehabilitated an old Soviet-style technique of performing “inspections of church artifacts” at the Pochaev Lavra. This move appears to be both intended to intimidate the monastics who are living there now, who are members of the canonical Church, as well as preparation for an expected forcible takeover by the new “united Church” that is under creation. The brotherhood characterized the inspections in this way:

The brotherhood of the Pochaev Lavra previously characterized the state’s actions as communist methods of putting pressure on the monastery and aimed at destroying monasticism.

Commenting on the situation with the Pochaev Lavra, His Eminence Archbishop Clement of Nizhyn and Prilusk, the head of the Ukrainian Church’s Information-Education Department, noted:

This is a formal raiding, because no reserve ever built the Pochaev Lavra, and no Ministry of Culture ever invested a single penny to restoring the Lavra, and the state has done nothing to preserve the Lavra in its modern form. The state destroyed the Lavra, turned it into a psychiatric hospital, a hospital for infectious diseases, and so on—the state has done nothing more. And now it just declares that it all belongs to the state. No one asked the Church, the people that built it. When did the Lavra and the land become state property? They belonged to the Church from time immemorial.

With the massive pressure both geopolitically and ecclesiastically building in Ukraine almost by the day, it is anyone’s guess what will happen next.

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Ukrainian leadership is a party of war, and it will continue as long as they’re in power – Putin

“We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

RT

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Via RT…


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has branded the Ukrainian leadership a “party of war” which would continue fueling conflicts while they stay in power, giving the recent Kerch Strait incident as an example.

“When I look at this latest incident in the Black Sea, all what’s happening in Donbass – everything indicates that the current Ukrainian leadership is not interested in resolving this situation at all, especially in a peaceful way,” Putin told reporters during a media conference in the aftermath of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This is a party of war and as long as they stay in power, all such tragedies, all this war will go on.

The Kiev authorities are craving war primarily for two reasons – to rip profits from it, and to blame all their own domestic failures on it and actions of some sort of “aggressors.”

“As they say, for one it’s war, for other – it’s mother. That’s reason number one why the Ukrainian government is not interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Putin stated.

Second, you can always use war to justify your failures in economy, social policy. You can always blame things on an aggressor.

This approach to statecraft by the Ukrainian authorities deeply concerns Russia’s President. “We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been soaring after the incident in the Kerch Strait. Last weekend three Ukrainian Navy ships tried to break through the strait without seeking the proper permission from Russia. Following a tense stand-off and altercation with Russia’s border guard, the vessels were seized and their crews detained over their violation of the country’s border.

While Kiev branded the incident an act of “aggression” on Moscow’s part, Russia believes the whole Kerch affair to be a deliberate “provocation” which allowed Kiev to declare a so-called “partial” martial law ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election.

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When Putin Met Bin Sally

Another G20 handshake for the history books.

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Via Zerohedge


In the annals of handshake photo-ops, we just may have a new winner (much to the delight of oil bulls who are looking at oil treading $50 and contemplating jumping out of the window).

Nothing but sheer joy, delight and friendship…

…but something is missing…

Meanwhile, earlier…

Zoomed in…

And again.

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