Listening in preparation for week 1

Please try to listen to as many of the following items as you are able. This is a short overview list and is designed to give you a fast of the kinds of materials we will be looking at on this module.

‘Polyushko, polye’, sung by the Red Army Choir, music by Lev Knipper, with lyrics by Viktor Gusev in 1933

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Lev Knipper, Symphony No. 4 ”Poem of the Komsomol Fighter” in D Major, Op. 41, I. Andante maestoso – Allegro

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Vadim Kozin, ‘Druzhba’, available on Russian Light Songs Volume 1 (Black Round Records, 2010)

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Dmitri Shostakovich, Symphony No. 7 “The Leningrad”, Op. 60, I. Allegretto [

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Sergei Prokofiev, Violin Concerto No. 2, Op. 63, II. Andante

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Pokrovskiy Ensemble, ‘Porushka’, The Wild Field (Real World Records 1991)

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Aleksandr Mosolov, ‘Factory: machine-music’ [also known as ‘The Iron Foundry’] from the ballet Stal, Op. 19 (1926-7)

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Review: Cold War by Pawel Pawlikowski

[From InQuire]

After 5 years of absence, Pawel Pawlikowski returns to the big screens with the beautiful ‘Cold War’. The film takes place in post-WW2 Poland under the Soviet regime and is loosely inspired by the relationship between the director’s parents. The two, according to Pawlowski, is “the most interesting dramatic characters I’ve ever come across … both strong, wonderful people, but as a couple a never-ending disaster”. An ambitious pianist and composer Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and Irena (Agata Kulesza) are putting together a big band ensemble ‘Mazurek’ out of talented young people from the rural areas. They are gathering them to perform traditional Polish folk songs and dances. One of the candidates, mysterious Zula (Joanna Kulig) catches Wiktor’s eye. Zula is ambitious, cunning, and beautiful which makes it easy for her to get what she wants from life. The central characters engage in a passionate life-long romance with various ups and downs, break-ups and come-backs, journeys and returns.

Although the plot might sound like a cliché the film is a true masterpiece. The story is told with earnest attention to details, with subtle moments and gestures, scenes full of emotions and passion. Although the film is centred around the relationship of Wiktor and Zula, the overall theme is freedom in divided Europe. After the war Poland  was devastated by the Nazi and Soviet armies which used the land as their battlefield. The authoritarian government tries to gain favour in the rural areas by investing in folk culture and lifestyle. In return, Wiktor has to promote the Soviet government although this clashes with his artistic vision. Zula has no freedom to be with whoever she wants as she has escaped prison by being a minister’s favourite. When a chance comes Wiktor plans an escape beyond the iron wall but Zula hesitates. The life of a foreigner has also its limitations. The two have to fit into the expectations of the elite and live with a feeling of being constantly at someone’s mercy. They both struggle to be happy as their expectations clash with the harsh reality.

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Get ready for a new celebration of cult Russian cinema in London

[From, The Calvert Journal]

A series of Russian and Soviet films celebrating the defiant, electric and subversive in are set to show in London as part of a special event celebrating classic cult cinema.

Generations: Russian Cinema of Change will screen five landmark movies released between 1935 and 2014 at London’s Barbican Centre.

They include the heavily-censored youth culture epic Lenin’s Guard, nihilistic 90s drama Brother, and coming-of-age film The Student by Kirill Serebrennikov — currently under house arrest amid controverial fraud accusations.

Accompanied by a programme of talks and discussions, each movie pieces together the effects of Russia’s profound 20th century upheaval on screen.

“This season explores the shifting forms of self-expression, independence and defiance through Russia’s seismic cycles of reinvention,” organisers say.

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Iosif Kobzon, Known as the ‘Russian Frank Sinatra,’ Dies at 80

[From the New York Times[]

The standard shorthand is to describe Iosif Kobzon as “the Russian Frank Sinatra,” a moniker that encompasses both his career as a popular singer and suggestions that he had connections to the Russian mob.

But what with the hostage-negotiation heroics, the bombing that may or may not have been aimed at him, and the international eyebrow-raising over his political positions, Mr. Kobzon, who died on Aug. 30 at 80, may have outdone even Ol’ Blue Eyes for high drama.

His death was announced on the website of the Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, of which he had been a member since 1997. The location and cause were not given, but the Russian news agency Tass said Mr. Kobzon had had cancer since 2005.

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