Kharitonov sings “The Cliff on the Volga”


Leonid Kharitonov and the Alexandrov Ensemble – “The Cliff on the Volga” (Есть на Волге Утес) Live

The concert in Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow 1965

This song is about the fate of the 17th century Russian rebel, Stepan Razin. The lyrics were written in 1864 by novelist Alexander Alexandrovich Navrotsky who was also a member of Narodnaya Volya (Russian: Народная Воля), a secret revolutionary organization perhaps best known for assassinating Tsar Alexander II on March 13, 1881. The song was an anthem for revolutionaries of the late 19th and early 20th century in Russia; Lenin often sang it with his comrades-in-arms. The song is still culturally central to Russia. Leonid Kharitonov remembers:

“My solo career truly began with a concert in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses on April 22, 1965, dedicated to the 95th anniversary of Lenin, when I sang “There is a cliff on the Volga“. This was my first solo performance. Brezhnev wept. He got up from his seat and wiped away the tears with his hands then applauded, and then everyone in the room stood up as well and applauded too. I do not know what my performance stirred in the hearts of Leonid Ilyich and the other listeners, but I would like this song to be considered a monument to the Russian victorious spirit. After that performance, I continued to be a soloist with the Ensemble for seven years, and, from then on, I was regarded as a serious professional singer among the musical and political elite.”

“I remember how after the concert Marshal Voroshilov came to see me backstage. After expressions of gratitude he hugged me as a father would and told me that Stalin also considered this song to be his favorite, and often played a record of it being performed by A. Pirogov, whenever he was sad at heart. “If Stalin was alive, then you would be leaving this room as a People’s Artist of the USSR – because you sing it better than Pirogov,” Voroshilov told me.”

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