Liberal Arts Blog — Keys fo the Hearts of Seven Billion People (XXXIII) — Russia — “Kuda, Kuda, Kuda” (Tchaikovsky)

Liberal Arts Blog — Thursday is Joy of Music Day

Today’s Topic — Keys fo the Hearts of Seven Billion People (XXXIII) — Russia — “Kuda, Kuda, Kuda” (Tchaikovsky)

I have more work to do on picking the perfect Russian song. I have chosen this one because I love it and it is the only Russian aria I ever learned to sing, although I never mastered it. And it has worked well enough in winning over audiences of Russian tourists. Again, just a few bars are enough. My favorite version is by Nikolai Gedda (first link below). The song is from Tchaikovsky’s opera, Eugene Onegin, based on the novel of Alexander Pushkin and is known as “Lensky’s aria.” Potential replacements include “Moscow Nights,” “Dark Eyes,” “Kalinka,” and “Katuyusha.” Any strong opinions? Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

Nicolai Gedda; “Kuda, kuda, kuda vi udalilis”; Lensky’s Aria; Eugene Onegin; Peter I. Tchaikovsky

LYRICS: Russian and English — opening lines

1. Kuda, kuda, kuda vi udalilis — where, where, where have you gone

2. Ves-ny ma-ej zla-ty-je dni — golden days of my spring

3. Shto den grja-du-schij mne ga to vit — what does the coming day have in store for me

NB: photo above is of Leonid Sobinov, a famous Russian tenor, as Lensky in 1898.

ALEXANDER PUSHKIN (1799–1837) — the Shakespeare of Russia

1. Considered by many to be Russia’s greatest poet and the founder of Russian literature.

2. His great grandfather (“Gannibal”) was black — probably from present-day Cameroon although Ethiopia and Eritrea claim him as their own. Gannibal became a Russian General and a black aristocrat in the court of Peter the Great! As the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction.

3. Pushkin died at age 38 of wounds from a duel with a French military officer Georges d’Anthese whom he suspected of having had an affair with his wife.

NB: Supreme irony: Pushkin’s fate echoes that of Lensky, the singer of the aria, who is killed in a duel with Eugene Onegin, triggered by Lensky’s jealous rage.

PIETR ILYCH TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893) — greatest Russian composer ever?

1. Harold Schonberg (NYT): “sweet, inexhaustible, supersensuous fund of melody”

2. Allen Kozinn (NYT): “superficial, manipulative, trivial.”

3. “Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.” (Tchaikovsky)

NB: Personally, a huge fan of his unbridled emotion — as in the First Piano Concerto.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Eugene Onegin (opera)

Alexander Pushkin

Abram Petrovich Gannibal

Pushkin’s pride: how the Russian literary giant paid tribute to his African ancestry

Another candidate proposed by a new Russian friend: “Ochie Chernye” (Dark eyes)


Dark Eyes (song)

APPENDIX: Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People — Past Posts in This Series

This is the list of songs with which, now masked and distanced, I greet tourists from around the world at the North Bridge in Concord or wherever I else I happened to meet them — eg. waiting in line at grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, or the Department of Motor Vehicles. I feel strongly that the core humanities curriculum of every school in the world should consist of the most beloved songs of the world’s peoples. Music unites. The opportunity cost of any other texts is infinite. Why not give every 18 year old the keys to hearts of seven billion people? I am not sure this is the perfect list. But I have spent 10 years testing the hypothesis. And the results are not scientific but they are pretty convincing. Proposals welcome.

4/9/20 — Nkosi — South African National Anthem

4/16/20 — Sweet Mother — unofficial national Anthem of Nigeria

4/23/20 — Jambo — the Swahili equivalent — Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda

4/30/20 — Sakura — Japan — the cherry blossom song

5/7/20 — Arirang — Korea (North and South)

5/14/20 — Chuang Qian Ming Yue Guang” — China — Li Bai — Gong Linna

5/21/20 — Ode to Joy — German — Beethoven/Schiller

5/28/20 — La Marseillaise — French — France plus many more french-speaking nations

6/4/20 — Volare — Italian — Domenico Modugno

6/11/20 — Arrorro and Cielito Lindo — Spanish speakers

6/18/20 — La Garota de Ipanema — Brazil and other Portuguese speakers

6/22/20 — Gayatri Mantra — Hindus

7/2/20 — Pokarekare Ana — Maori — New Zealand

7/9/20 — Aseda Yede Ma Onyame — Ghana

7/16/20 — “Al Fatihah” — most sacred Islamic prayer (Arabic)

7/23/20 — “Tavaszi Szel” — Hungarian Folk Song

7/30/20 — “Modeh Ani” — the Jewish Waking Up Prayer

8/6/20 — “Stolat, Stolat” — Polish Birthday Song

8/20/20 — “Lang Zal Ze Leven” — Dutch Birthday Song

8/27/20 — “Oh Danny Boy” — Ireland

9/3/20 — “Mul Mantra” — most sacred Sikh prayer

9/10/20 — “Warwindar Friska” — Swedish song of spring

9/17/20 — “Desteapta-te Romane!” — Romanian national anthem

9/24/20 — “Kad Ja Podjoh Na Bembasu” — Bosnian folk song of lost love

10/1/20 — “Waltzing Matilda” — Australia

10/8/20 — “Calon Lan” — Wales

10/15/20 -”Ngoromera” — Zimbabwe — Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi

10/22/20 — “Holka Modrooka” — Czech Republic

10/29/20 — “Tis Dikaiosinis” — Mikiis Theodorakis — Greece

11/5/20 — “Finlandia” Sibelius — Finland

11/12/20 — “Karoun, Karoun, Karoon” — Armenia

11/19/20 — “Hubava si, Moya Goro” — Bulgaria

11/26/20 — “Kuda, Kuda, Kuda” — Russia, Tchaikovsky, Lensky’s Aria

Here is a link to the last three years of posts organized by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Time to share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to music. Or the coolest thing you learned in your life related to music. Say your favorite song or songs. Or your favorite tips for breathing, posture, or relaxation. Or some insight into the history of music….Or just something random about music… like a joke about drummers. jazz, rock….or share an episode or chapter in your musical autobiography.

This is your chance to make some one else’s day. And perhaps to cement in your memory something important you would otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than you otherwise would about