Showing posts from February, 2013

Kyra Nijinsky interviewed about her father, Vaslav Nijinsky

This is an interview with Kyra Nijinsky (1914-1998), daughter of legendary Ballets Russes dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.

She talks with by Dame Margot Fonteyn about her father.

What a Fabulous Place!

What a Fabulous Place!: Today you have a chance to see Moscow from above in summer. We are going to have a flight in a little helicopter with dismantled doors. So let us put some warm clothes on and start our tour. It’s the … Read more...

How to brand great Russian literature

The newly appointed director of the Literature Museum, Dmitry Bak,recently put forward his vision of future plans for the museum. He noted that it was crucial for the museum to “revert toward normal people,” stressing that interaction between museum specialists and the general public was not a simple objective. Bak’s outlined objectives for the museum included developing links with literature museums abroad, exchanging ideas, establishing grants, and setting up projects with both international and domestic aspects. Bak also called on his staff to give due attention to contemporary literature. “In their own time, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Pushkin were not ‘classics,’ but just normal men. No one who picked up a copy of Dostoyevsky’s ‘Poor Folk’ would ever have guessed that he bore in hand a work by the future author of ‘The Brothers Karamazov.’ We can only grasp this classic literature through its contemporaneity,”Bak told Izvestia. The State Museum of Literature was founded in 1934. Today …

Leningrad Siege: When poetry helps survive

Berggolts lived in the city during the blockade and broadcast her poems to bolster the populace. Knowing that she was on the other end of a microphone, barricaded like them, gave Leningraders something resembling hope. After all, amid shelling and starvation, she was still writing poems. And she would recite these poems, about the suffering, about the fear, about the horror of death, and the unbearable lives they were living.  In a film called “Day Stars,” (Igor Talankin, 1968) Berggolts is depicted as reciting to soldiers: “Mother worries, grieves/ What should I write my distant mother?/ How to reassure her/to lie?” By the end of the poem, however, she shows no fear, only resolve. Berggolts decides not to protect her mother. Rather, she decides to tell “the truth.” The poet, a charismatic beauty in her early thirties, broadcast her poems over the only radio station operating during the Siege. Her grave but mellifluous voice flowed straight into their homes during one of the worst wartime …

Kazimir Malevich

Kazimir Malevich (Russian: Казимир Малевич, Polish: Kazimierz Malewicz,  (February 23, 1879, previously 1878: see below May 15, 1935) was a painter and art theoretician, pioneer of geometric abstract art and the originator of the Avant-garde Suprematist movement.

1. On the Boulevard (1903)
2. Spring. Garden in Blossom (1904)
3. Summer Landscape (1905)
4. Spring (1906)
5. Sketch for fresco. Triumph of the Skies (1907)
6. Rest. Society in Top Hats (1908)
7. Carpenter (1908 1910)
8. Reapers (1910)
9. Still-Life (1911)
10. Province (1912)
11. Lady on a Tram Station (1913)
12. Lady at the Poster Column (1914)
13. Suprematism (1915)
14. Suprematism (Yellow and Black) (1916)
15. Suprematism (1917)
16. Sketch for the back Cover for the Portfolio of the Congress fo the Committees on Rural Poverty (1918)
17. Speakers on Tribune (1919)
18. Black Square (1920)
19. Suprematism (1921)
20. Peasant Woman (1927)
21. Peasant in the Fields (1928-1932)
22. Landscape with White House (1930)
23. Red House (1932)
24. Self-Portrait…

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto n.1 - Nikita Magaloff

Nikita Magaloff plays the Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto n.1
Karl Martin conducts Rai Turin Symphony Orchestra.

Revealing the mundane horrors of the Russian family

No writer captures the mundane horrors of domestic despair quite like Ludmilla Petrushevskaya. Taken together, her new collection of short stories, written between 1972 and 2008, reveals more about Russian family life in the 20th century than any non-fiction. Sober and grim, these seventeen stories eschew the supernatural twists and scary magical realism employed in her earlier, acclaimed collection, “There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby.”

Yet they still read like fairy tales of a sort, small parables that occur in fetid apartments, soiled beds, dank doorways and kitchens stocked with moonshine, stale bread and bologna. When the stories end with a shred of hope, or even a numbing of the pain, the poignance can be hard to bear. Yet you keep reading. Surprising expressions of love and simple acts of loyalty stand out in relief, surrounded by the chaos of fear. “In reality, life doesn’t stop with a wedding, heroic action, or with happy coincidence, as in films, wh…

Yury Olesha (1899 - 1960) - Biography

Writer, journalist, and playwright, whose best-known novel, Zavist' (1927, Envy) painted a prophetic picture of the clashing values in the early years of the Soviet Russia. Writing in expressionistc style, Olesha's work differed radically from the school of the Socialist Realism. When the authorities realized that Olesha was more ambiguous than was permissible, he fell from favor. After Stalin's death, Olesha was rehabilitated.
-"How sweet is my life ... ta-rá! ta-rá ... my bowels are flexing ... rá-ta-tá-ta-ra-rí ... the juices are flowing just right, straight through ... ra-tí-ta-doo-da-tá ... squeeze, bowels, squeeze ... tram-ba-ba-boom!" (in Envy)Yury Olesha was born in Elizavetgrad, Ukraine, into a middle-class family. His father, Karl Antonovich, was an excise officer, an impoverished member of the gentry. In 1902 the family moved to the cosmopolitan port of Odessa, where Karl Antonovich was employed as as a tax inspector in a vodka distillery. According to …

Moscow Destroyed By the Revolution

Moscow Destroyed By the Revolution: Revolution of 1917 is mostly associated with Saint-Petersburg. Many people do not know that hard and long battles took place in Moscow too. Bolsheviks were shooting at the Kremlin and many other buildings in the center of the city. Hundreds … Read more...

Fyodor Sologub: Hide and Seek

Everything in Lelechka's nursery was bright, pretty, and cheerful. Lelechka's sweet voice charmed her mother. Lelechka was a delightful child. There was no other such child, there never had been, and there never would be. Lelechka's mother, Serafima Aleksandrovna, was sure of that. Lelechka's eyes were dark and large, her cheeks were rosy, her lips were made for kisses and for laughter. But it was not these charms in Lelechka that gave her mother the keenest joy. Lelechka was her mother's only child. That was why every movement of Lelechka's bewitched her mother. It was great bliss to hold Lelechka on her knees and to fondle her; to feel the little girl in her arms – a thing as lively and as bright as a little bird.

To tell the truth, Serafima Aleksandrovna felt happy only in the nursery. She felt cold with her husband.

Perhaps it was because he himself loved the cold – he loved to drink cold water, and to breathe cold air. He was always fresh and cool, with a fr…

Fyodor Sologub: The joining of souls

In vexation, Sonpolev paced up and down the study room. He stopped in front of a wall and began to speak. In our days, there are many people who carry on long conversations with a wall – a truly interesting company! And a reliable one at that. Sonpolev was saying: “We can only hate something with such agonizing hate, something that is very close to us. But what is the secret behind this diabolic closeness? Which demon, and using which evil spells, linked our souls? Souls that are so unlike each other! Mine, that is of a person with a stirring life and an aim towards soothing, and his soul, a soul of a big-mouthed youngster, cunning like a conspirator and sluggish like a coward. And why does his character portray this strange discrepancy to his outside appearance? Who had stolen the most necessary, the best part of the soul, from this sucker?” He spoke quietly, almost mumbling. Then loudly, annoyed, cried out: “Who did this? A human being or its enemy?” He heard a strange response: “I …

Alexander Brailowski - Chopin, Valse Brillante in A flat

Alexander Brailowsky (16 February 1896 - 25 April 1976) was a Russian pianist who specialized in the works of Frédéric Chopin. He achieved most of his fame between the two world wars.

Brailowsky was born in Kiev, (although some sources suggest he was Polish) and later became a French citizen in 1926.

He made his concert debut in Paris in 1919. His first recordings were done in Berlin from 1928 to 1934 (78 rpm discs). In 1938 he recorded in London for HMV. Later discs were produced for RCA Victor and finally in the 1960's, for CBS. Besides his huge output of Chopin, he also included in his repertoire Rachmaninoff, Saint-Saëns, Liszt, Debussy and others.

Brailowsky gave the first complete Chopin cycle in history in Paris in 1924, using the composer's own piano for part of the recital. He then went on to present a further thirty recitals of Chopin's music, including New York in 1938 and then in Paris, Brussels, Zurich, Mexico City, Buenos Aires and Montevideo. In 1960 he decided…

Tamara Platonovna Karsavina (1885-1978)

Tamara Karsavina, one of the greatest dancers of the Ballets Russes of Serge Diaghilev was born in St. Petersburg on March 10, 1885, the daughter of dancer Platon Karsavin. Tamara became a legend in her own life time. Her technical perfection, wit, rare intelligence, and deep feeling made her a prima ballerina for all times.

Karsavina graduated from St. Petersburg's Imperial Ballet School in 1902 and immediately entered the Maryinsky Ballet as a soloist. From 1909 to 1918 she was given starring roles with the rank of Ballerina. She was a ballerina with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes from its beginnings in 1909. ...

I do not know any other dancer who practices the art of shaping lyricism - the tenderest virtue of the human soul, the source of purest intimate pleasure - into a more perfect form of dance than Tamara Platonovna Karsavina does. The secret of the charm exuded by the ballerina lies in her exclusive gift for turning the dance she performs…

Maria Volkonsky

When Maria - beautiful, highly cultivated, daughter of famous general Raevski married prince Volkosnkii her family was thrilled. Although they came from a rich, well known family and close to the tsar family themselves, the fact of their daughter marrying wealthy prince was very honorable and alluring. She was set to live in splendor in one of the magnificent palaces. 

Twenty-one year-old Maria was married only for year when her husband was arrested. She wrote to her husband: “One thing I can assure you of: what ever your fate I will share it.” Her family was very upset and objectected to her decision to follow her husband into exile, pleading to consider her infant son. The Tsar prohibited the taking of any children along. “My son is happy, but my husband is not and he needs me”. In her defense, she never expected that it would be separation for ever. However, after her long trip to Siberia and not long before she finally reached her husband, Maria was presented with the document that…

Boris Akunin - Paradise Lost: Confessions Of An Apostate Translator

My mother wanted me to become a doctor. If not a doctor – then a literary translator. She would start speaking about my future and say with conviction that in our country there were only two “clean” professions – firstly, medicine, secondly, literary translation. She wouldn’t be more specific, so I took it as an axiom. When she saw that I was hopeless at chemistry and physics and that I showed little interest in biology, she started pushing me towards the second option. She was a schoolteacher, she knew how to manipulate people. Just one example of her scheming. At home there was a bookshelf up very high where, mother told me, were the books for adults. I was not to touch them until I was old enough to understand them. Of course when I was alone I read them all, to the last page. I was probably the youngest living creature in the world to read the two volumes of “Anna Karenina” and the four volumes of “War and Peace”. I didn’t understand much, but I developed a lifelong habit of reading…

Kirill Medvedev’s “It’s No Good: poems/ essays/ actions”


Caucasian Canyons Preserving the History

Caucasian Canyons Preserving the History: We are going to have a trip to an interesting Caucasian place – Fiagdon gorge located in North Ossetia. The mouth of the gorge starts about thirty kilometers from Vladikavkaz, it’s where one can already observe very beautiful landscapes. There … Read more...

Feodor Chaliapin - Biography

"Chaliapin will never die; for with his fabulous talent, this marvelous artist can never be forgotten... To future generations Chaliapin will become a legend." - Sergey Rachmaninov

Feodor Chaliapin is perhaps the most influential opera singer of all times. He was an imposing figure of a man with a dark-timbered basso-cant ante voice. His rich vocal expression and excellent acting left a benchmark for later interpreters of “Boris Gudunov” and “Don Quichotte.” Both roles are considered his best. He was a superb actor whose stage presence thrilled his audience. He rose from a very humble if not miserable upbringing by sheer willpower and determination to the heights of operatic zenith. What is most remarkable is that he was mostly self-taught in both languages and music. Feodor Chaliapin, born the same year as Enrico Caruso (who also played a crucial part in changing the art form), was the first Russian singer to establish a great international career.

Feodor Chaliapin was born i…

Boris Pasternak: To Anna Akhmatova

I think I can call on words
that will last: you are there.
But if I can’t, no matter –
I’ll persist, I won’t care.

I hear the muttering of wet roofs,
pale eclogues from stones and kerb.
From the opening lines, that city,
is alive in each sound, each word.

You can’t leave town though it’s spring,
and your customers won’t wait.
Dawn glows, by lamplight sewing
with unbowed back, eyes wet.

Breathing the calm of far-off Ladoga,
stumbling towards the water.
There’s no relief from such trips.
The shallows smell mustier, darker.

The wind dances, it’s a walnut shell,
a glitter, the warm wind blows
branches and stars, lights, and views,
as the seamstress watches the flow.

Eyesight can be sharp, differently,
form be precise in varying ways,
but a solvent of acid power’s
out there under the white night’s blaze.

That’s how I see your face and look.
Not that pillar of salt, in mind,
in which five years ago you fixed
our fears of looking behind.

From your first verses where grains
of clear speech hardened, to the last,
your eye,…

Boris Pasternak Interviewed by Olga Carlisle

Fragment of a letter from Boris Pasternak to a fellow poet:

“The melodic authenticity of most of your work is very dear to me, as is your faithfulness to the principle of melody and to “ascent” in the supreme sense that Alexander Blok gave that word.

'You will understand from a reading of my most recent works that I, too, am under the power of the same influence, but we must try to make sure that, as in Alexander Blok, this note works, reveals, incarnates, and expresses thoughts to their ultimate clarity, instead of being only a reminder of sounds which originally charmed us, an inconsequential echo dying in the air.”

I decided to visit Boris Pasternak about ten days after my arrival in Moscow one January. I had heard much about him from my parents, who had known him for many years, and I had heard and loved his poems since my earliest years.

I had messages and small presents to take to him from my parents and from other admirers. But Pasternak had no phone, I discovered in Moscow. …

Isabella Georgeva (Изабелла Юрьева) :If you can, forgive


The Obverse Of Stalinism: Akhmatova's Self-Serving Charisma Of Selflessness

In every revolution, the main issue is power.
                                                                                                V. I. Lenin[1]
                "Poetry is power," Osip Mandelstam once said to Akhmatova in Voronezh, and she bowed her head on its slender neck. Banished, sick, penniless and hounded, they still would not give up their power.
                                                                                Nadezhda Mandelstam[2]
                The life and works of the poet Anna Andreevna Akhmatova (1889-1966) offer a sustained example of self-presentation that is grounded in historical circumstances in ways one would not have easily suspected. What follows is an attempt to reread the Akhmatova myth as a set of stories told of oneself and received, regurgitated, and institutionalized by the surrounding culture. The case of Akhmatov…

"Giselle", 1977, with Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov

Natalia Makarova is Giselle, Mikhail Baryshnikov is Albrecht and Frank Smith is Hilarion. Filmed in performance at the Metropolitan Opera House on June 2, 1977. American Ballet Theater. Production by David Blair, choreography after Jean Coralli, Jules Perrot and Marius Petipa. Settings by Oliver Smith. Music by Adolphe Adam conducted by John Lanchbery.

Daniil Kharms, Master of Deadpan, Father of the Absurd

Grotesque deaths in miniature are a hallmark of the work of Daniil Kharms. In one of his short stories, several women throw themselves out of the same apartment block window, each shattering upon impact. In another, a man dies from eating too much: “One day Orlov stuffed himself with mashed peas and died. Krylov, having heard the news, also died. And Spiridonov died regardless…” The latter, an absurdist gem, is especially poignant, since Kharms died of starvation in a psych ward of a Soviet hospital during the Seige of Leningrad in 1942. The avant-garde author had been basically imprisoned there for his artistic subversion, and according to absurdist American writer George Saunders, perhaps also "his general strangeness." Finally, seventy years after his death, all of his scribbled short prose, poetry and theater scenes have been deciphered and published. Kharms has been catapulted into the canon of modern literature of Russia and Europe—just like that. Many view his absurdity …

Borodin: Second Symphony


Benois, Alexandr (1870-1960) - 1939 The Bolshoi Theater in St.Petersburg in 1885 (Private Collection)

A photo by RasMarley on Flickr. Gouache and watercolor; 34 x 60 cm.

Russian painter, mainly in watercolour, art historian and stage designer. Born in St Petersburg of French and Italian descent, son of Nikolai Benois, architect to the Imperial Palaces in Peterhof. Briefly attended a part-time course in stage design at the Academy of Arts 1887, but otherwise self-taught as an artist. Studied law at the University of St Petersburg 1890-4, and while still a student formed a circle with a number of friends, including Diaghilev, Somov and Bakst, for the purpose of studying art. This later developed into the World of Art (Mir Iskusstva), which held exhibitions and published a journal of the same name, 1898-1904. Travelled widely in Europe and was influenced by the art of the eighteenth century. Became very active and influential as a stage designer, including sets and costumes for Le Pavillon d'Armide 1907 and (for Diaghilev) Petrushka 1911 and Le Rossignol 1914. Edited the periodical Khu…

Vladislav Khodasevich: The Monkey

The heat was fierce. Great forests were on fire.
Time dragged its feet in dust. A cock was crowing
 in an adjacent lot. As I pushed open
my garden-gate I saw beside the road
a wandering Serb asleep upon a bench
his back against the palings. He was lean
and very black, and down his half-bared breast
there hung a heavy silver cross, diverting
the trickling sweat.
Upon the fence above him,
clad in a crimson petticoat, his monkey
sat munching greedily the dusty leaves
of a syringa bush; a leathern collar
drawn backwards by its heavy chain bit deep
into her throat.
Hearing me pass, the man
stirred, wiped his face, and asked me for some
He took one sip to see whether the drink
was not too cold, then placed a saucerful
upon the bench, and, instantly, the monkey
slipped down and clasped the saucer with both
dipping her thumbs; then, on all fours, she drank,
her elbows pressed against the bench, her chin
touching the boards, her backbone arching higher
than her bald head. Thus, surely, did Darius
bend to a p…