Friday, March 24, 2006
God Save (and cut and paste) the Tsar
Remember when our worst fear was the people who played this song? (1.1MB mp3)
Life was simpler then and you could count on the Evil Empire to have some good tunes.
Russia has a grand musical history, but most of it happened before the 1917 revolution. Obvious outrages like the tsarist anthem "God Save the Tsar" could be banned, but what's a good soviet do with a national emblem like Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture which actually incorporates GST into the finale? Disgraced party members could be airbrushed out of a photo but what to do about the 1812?
I hardly believed it when one of my college professors told me this... but it's true: they snip the score where "God Save the Tsar" starts, paste in a passage from a Glinka opera, and then go back to Tchaikovsky when the danger is past.
The Russian National Anthems Museum has a comparison of "original" and "Soviet" versions of several Tcahikovsky works that quote GST including 1812.
download MP3 (25.4MB, 15:29, 224kbps) — fully instrumental; by the USSR State Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Evgeny Svetlanov and go to about 14:00 with your mp3 player. If you're like me and spent many teenage hours playing 1812 at high volume, this will be the most ear-bending thing you ever heard.
Many interesting parodies of various Russian anthems are also contained on the Russian National Anthems Museum page, including C&W, techno and punk versions.
BTW, that's not Tchaikovsky at the top, that's Alexis Lvov, composer of "God Save the Tsar".