Saturday, October 24, 2009

Boris Christoff - Song of the Volga Boatmen

Boris Christoff sings the Song of the Volga Boatmen (Russian title:Эй, ухнем!). This is a well-known traditional Russian song collected by Mily Balakirev, and published in his book of folk songs. 

It is a genuine barge-haulers' shanty. The song, also called The Volga Burlak's Song, was inspired by Repin's famous painting, Burlaks on the Volga, depicting the suffering of the people in the depth of misery in Tsarist Russia.

(Burlaks of the Volga)

The song was popularised by Feodor Chaliapin, and has been a favourite concert piece of bass singers ever since. Glenn Miller took the song to #1 in the US charts in 1941.

Spanish composer Manuel De Falla wrote an arrangement of the song, which was published under the name Canto de los remeros del Volga (del cancionero musical ruso) in 1922. He did so at the behest of diplomat Ricardo Baeza, who was working with the League of Nations to provide financial relief for the more than two million Russian refugees who had been displaced and imprisoned during World War I. All proceeds from the song's publication were donated to this effort.