Arbiter Records 132

The Chaliapin Edition, volume 4

Song repertoire: 1913-1921

Track List

  1. Lyapunov The Tale of Tsar Ivan the Terrible
  2. Folk song: The mother-in-law had seven sons-in-law
  3. Folk song: Ah, the green oak has bent over the ravine
  4. Folk song: A great big gnat
  5. Slonov A Word of Farewell
  6. Rubinstein The Prisoner
  7. Grieg A Swan
  8. Rimsky-Korsakov On the hills of Georgia
  9. Rachmaninoff WHen yesterday we met
  10. Brahms Sapphic Ode
  11. Rubinstein The Prisoner
  12. Grieg A Swan
  13. Slonov A Word of Farewell
  14. Grieg Parting
  15. Grieg Verses in an Album
  16. Koenemann When the King went to War
  17. Schubert Aufenthalt
  18. Sokolov The tempest rages in the fields
  19. Glinka A Life is for the Tsar: They guess the truth
  20. Grieg An Old Song
  21. Grieg Verses in an Album
  22. Tchaikovsky Nightingale
  23. Mussorgsky The Song of the Flea
  24. Rimsky-Korsakov The Prophet
  25. Alnaes The Last Voyage
  26. Malashkin Oh, could I in song tell my sorrow

Chaliapin’s recording session on October 26, 1913 as well as our 4th volume both started with Russian folk songs which Chaliapin recorded along with the St.Petersburg Vocal Quartet. The baritone Nikolai Nikolaevich Kedrov (1871­1940) who was also a singer in the Mariynsky Theater and professor at the St.Petersburg Conservatory founded this male quartet, which also included his brother Konstantin Nikolaevich Kedrov (?­1932), a bass, Nikolai Matveevich Safonov (1865­1922), a tenor and also a chorus master and opera singer, and Mitrofan Mikhailovich Chuprynnikov (1868­1918), tenor and soloist at the Mariynsky Theater as well as professor of the conservatory. This quartet is also referred to in writing under the name the Kedrov Quartet.

Among the Russian and Ukrainian folk songs recorded by Chaliapin with this quartet, Nikolai Kedrov arranged all but one, namely: The Tale of Il’ya Murometz, The Mother-in- law had seven sons-in-law (both sung in Russian), and also Ah, the green oak has bent over the ravine and A Great Big Gnat: Oh, this noise (both sung in Ukrainian). Sergey Michailovich Lyapunov (1859­1924) wrote A Tale of Tsar Ivan the Terrible in 1912 and it was included in his Five Quartets for male voices (Op. 48, no.4).

During the following session, which took place in St.Petersburg in January of 1914, Chaliapin recorded six songs: four by Russian composers, one by Grieg and one by Brahms. Chaliapin allowed only Sapphic Ode to be released during his life. All other test records have survived exclusively in private collections: this is the first time the entire session is being released. While we understand that it goes against the singer’s wish, we believe that the great historic value of these recordings today supersedes any hesitation! In all songs of this session, a pianist accompanies Chaliapin, yet unfortunately (like in many other pre-war recordings), his name remains unknown. However, referring mainly to a chronology of Chaliapin’s life compiled by Yuri Kotlyarov and Victor Garmash, it is safe to guess that at least during this session his good friend, the composer and accomplished pianist Feodor Feodorovich Koeneman (1873 – 1937), accompanied Chaliapin.

Two and a half months later, on April 4, 1914, also in St.Petersburg, Chaliapin held his next session. With the exception of Susanin’s recitative and aria They guess the truth! from Glinka’s opera A Life for the Tsar, Chaliapin again recorded only songs by Russian and some European composers. It should be noted that from time to time some ratherstrict critics had been accusing Chaliapin of not following the spirit of lieder. Those accusations are not fair, simply due to the fact that Chaliapin sang (and recorded) almost every German song in Russian translation. Thus, every lied in his interpretation was actually ‘converted’ into a ‘Russian song’ written by a German composer. If one is willing to accept this point of view, there will be no difficulty in gaining a proper understanding.

Neither Chaliapin nor anyone from the Gramophone Company would suspect that due to unforeseen events, they would face a gap of seven years between this session and the following recording session. First came World War I, then the Russian revolution of March 1917, and finally, the Bolsheviks’ coup of November 7, 1917, which changed not only the course of Chaliapin’s life but also the status quo of the entire World. In this essay, all these events will be discussed soon, but in the meantime, on May 30, 1914, by singing the role of Tsar Boris in the Drury Lain Theater, Chaliapin started the second Diaghilev season in London. In less than two months Chaliapin gave sixteen performances in four Russian operas: Boris Godunov, Khovanshchina, Pskovityanka (Maid of Pskov), and Prince Igor. His roles in the first three operas were as follows: Tsar Boris, Dosifei, and Ivan the Terrible. In the latter, as it became customary for his singing abroad, Chaliapin simultaneously portrayed two characters: Prince Galitsky and Khan Konchak. An enormous success with both spectators and critics pleased Chaliapin very much. In a letter to a friend, he wrote: “What can I say about the London season?! My grade for all performances should be A+++++. From good luck, I am stringing here my performances like pearls, one next to another. Which one is better, I cannot say”.

An exhausted Chaliapin planned to rest and get some medical treatment in Karlsbad, however his train was stopped just a couple of hours after it left Paris, and everyone was ordered to vacate it. Chaliapin later wrote in his book: “We heard that war had been declared and the train was proceeding no further. Nor were there any trains for Paris. In addition, all horses had been requisitioned, and I was left with my suitcases at a little station among crowds of anxious and excited Frenchmen. To make my return to Paris easier, I opened my cases and started giving away most of their contents to poor people, leaving myself with the barest essentials”.

Chaliapin’s only goal at that time was to return home. Since there was no chance of doing so by the usual way – via train through Germany, he was forced to go back to England. After overcoming all obstacles (political, financial, administrative, etc.), he boarded a ship in Glasgow, and via Norway, Sweden, and Finland, he eventually came home. Immediately upon his return, Chaliapin organized two private hospitals (25 beds each), and covered all their expenses for more than three years; one in Moscow, the other in Petrograd (a name given to St.Petersburg at the beginning of the war). During those years, not only did he give many charity recitals for the wounded and refugees, but also donated large amounts of his own money to other needy war victims.

His singing was now mainly divided between Moscow, Petrograd, and some other Russian cities. It’s conceivable that during the war there was no time to study new roles, however in February of 1917, for the first time in Russia, Chaliapin sang King Philip in Verdi’s Don Carlo. And not only did he sing the title role but Chaliapin also supervised staging of the opera at both the Bolshoi Opera in Moscow and the Narodny Dom (People’s House) Company in Petrograd. According to Chaliapin’s recollection, one such performance (on the evening of November 7, 1917) he started, while the country was under the rule of the Provisional government, and finished it “in the Bolshevik fog.”

These horrific days “under the Bolsheviks” are splendidly described in Chaliapin’s book Mask and Soul (translated in the West as Man and Mask). Thus, listeners are again referred to those pages. Although the ‘peoples’ government treated Chaliapin and his family a little better than his colleagues, he realized that the only way to survive was to leave Russia forever. But first, he had to be sure that his name was not forgotten abroad. Happily for him, in 1921, the impresario Sol Hurok invited Chaliapin through the Soviet government to come to the United States. Permission was granted, and on October 2, 1921, while stopping in England, Chaliapin gave his first solo recital at the Albert Hall. One week later, in the His Master’s Voice studio in Hayes, Chaliapin had his first post-war recording session.

The whole session consisted of songs from the Chaliapin concert repertory. The pianist who accompanied him was Max A. Rabinovich, whom Chaliapin met earlier that year and who from that day collaborated with the singer for eight years. Two out of six takes are included in this CD: The Nightingale by Tchaikovsky and two songs by Grieg. They are followed by two more songs from his following session, which took place the next day: The Song of the Flea by Mussorgsky and The Prophet by Rimsky-Korsakov. Percy Pitt led the orchestra which accompanied Chaliapin in both songs. The whereabouts of several other test records­ four of next session and three recorded afterwards is unknown. Volume Four concludes with the first two recordings of his session on October 11, 1921: Accompanied by Max Rabinovich, Chaliapin recorded The Last Voyage by Alnaes and a Russian song by Malashkin Oh, could I in song tell my sorrow. ­Joseph Darsky, ©2002.