The Choir sings “The Sacred War” 1942


The Choir sings “The Sacred War” (Священная война)

From the 1942 movie – “The Concert For The Front”

The Alexandrov Ensemble sings “Sacred War” or Svyaschennaya Voyna (Священная война). Music by Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov; words by Vasily Lebedev-Kumach.

A.V. Alexandrov wrote this music on 22 June 1941: the day when the Nazis invaded Russia. At that point he did not know that the fascists would chase the Russians until the Battle of Moscow later in 1941, or that the fascists would then create a front from which was launched the terrible battle of Stalingrad 1942-43.

However in this stark and raw first performance you can hear the terror in the tiny silences (tacets) after the abrupt line-endings, and the agony and bravery in the roar of the choir when they sing those very modern, harsh and high chords. When you hear the roar of battle in street riots it’s a mainly deep sound – but these chords are almost a scream, like the visual ones in Guernica – Picasso’s picture of villagers being burnt to death in battle.

The words are a war cry, and it is said that this recording was one of the influences which gave Russia the courage to defend itself.

This piece has been recorded by the Ensemble many times since, and is still performed today – but there will never be a performance like this again.

See also this video from the same film.

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2 comments on “The Choir sings “The Sacred War” 1942

  1. […] also this video from the same film. Published […]

  2. Linda says:

    Great to see A.V. conducting a performance almost as raw and terrifying as the first 1941 recording. How modern it must have sounded!

    Also very interesting to compare A.V.’s gentle conducting technique with his son Boris’s very fast baton-flicks – yet both great conductors. Thank you for this.

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