Victor Ivanovich Nikitin (Виктор Иванович Никитин) sings “Solovii” or “Nightingales” (Соловьи) with the Alexandrov Ensemble, conducted by Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov at the Municipal Hall, Prague, 12 June 1946. Nikitin’s dates are unkown but are approx. 1918-1988.
This is a live concert recording; you can hear applause at the beginning and end. But this was a time of endings. A.V. Alexandrov died suddenly the following month. Nikitin was the Ensemble’s leading tenor, as his beautiful, highly powerful, yet untrained voice could outsing the weaker voice of the far more highly-trained and perfectionist Georgy Vinogradov. However the recording careers of both of these great tenors ended suddenly: in 1951 for Vinogradov; 1952 for Nikitin. For an unknown reason Nikitin asked to rejoin the Ensemble choir, where he stayed until at least 1965. He can be seen in later videos in the front row, usually 7th from left. After Belyaev sings a song from his repertoire, Nikitin can be seen to bow with respect.
Evgeny Belyaev took over Nikitin’s repertoire in 1955. He was more highly-trained and skilled than Nikitin would ever be, but Belyaev never had that beautiful, clear upper register, or that sensual, slightly nasal lower register. Nikitin was much loved in Russia; Stalin continued to wave to him even after he had rejoined the choir; Malev the current director of the Ensemble still mentions him with respect in interviews.
It is interesting to compare the recordings of Solovii by Vinogradov, Nikitin and Belyaev. For over 60 years, the Ensemble has used the same wonderful arrangement for this song, complete with drumrolls and brass to wake the soldiers for more glory while the song asks for peace and quiet.