Russian Music

A major new musical site is now adding to the growing collection of information on Russian music on line--The St. Petersburg Conservatory. You might want to start you ventures in Russian music there.

This page presents   You may sample
a sampling of Russian music performed by groups working in the United States, as well as libretti and biographical information about Russian composers. Some of the audio files require a little time to download, but are worth the wait.   a few bars here, then move on to the homepages of the artists themselves by simply clicking their names. That will take you to more information about composers and groups, including information as to how to acquire CDs full of their music.

First, a Few Samples

Let's begin with a few minutes of Russian folk music rendered by three excellent musical organizations plus the Russian top 40 (or so) in San Antonio, Texas. Each of the following sites have sound files which may be downloaded and played at your leisure. The Little Russia page, however, has many Internet Wave recordings which may be played instantaneously, without downloading.

The Yale Russian Chorus

The Yale Russian Chorus is an cappella ensemble composed of members from the Yale University and New Haven community. The group's mission is to celebrate the rich music and culture of the former Soviet Union. Since its inception in 1953, the Chorus has become a widely-acclaimed ensemble, performing an extensive repertoire of folk, liturgical, classical, and contemporary music from Russia and its neighboring republics.

The Middlebury Russian Choir

New!Founded in 1983, the Middlebury Russian Choir was founded in 1983 and comprises men and women mostly students at Middlebury College. The choir sings folk music, mostly from Russia and other republics of the former Soviet Union. It has appeared on TV several times, including one appearance on the Today show.
The University of Illinois Russian Ensemble
Firebird!The University of Illinois Russian Folk Orchestra is the United States's premier Russian folk instruments ensemble. Founded in 1974 by Professor John Garvey, the Orchestra utilizes many traditional Russian folk instruments, most notably the balalaika and domra. These three-stringed fretted instruments, similar in appearance to the guitar, form the Orchestra's two central choirs of strings.


New!Founded in 1984 as an offshoot of a course taught at Ohio State University, Rusalka has developed into a popular and respected performing ensemble. Its membership includes students, faculty and staff of Ohio State as well as residents of the Columbus metropolitan area. Rusalka's repertory includes folk music from throughout Eastern Europe, but its specialities are Russian folk music and early Russian Orthodox chant and polyphony.

The Slavyanka Mens Slavic Chorus

The Slavyanka Men's Slavic Chorus regularly presents a cappella concerts in the San Francisco Bay Area. The repertoire is liturgical and folk music, mostly Russian. 'Slavyanka' is the name that the early Russian settlers in California gave to the river that is today known as the Russian River. Slavyanka was formed in 1979 by several former members of the Yale Russian Chorus. The founder of Slavyanka and director until 1991 was Paul Andrews.

The 'Little Russia' Music Page

This site features a recordings presentation, containing more than 200 audio and 13 video clips, a collection of Russian romantic songs, POP music, and artists' songs and lyrics. Many do not require downloading. The lyrics have been saved in GIF format so that they do not require any Russian font for reading. Many images are 'sensitive', that is, the text is read aloud when you click on it. Currently, some 50+ songs are presented in au format. Some of them are accompanied by Quicktime movie clips.

Gospodin Daduda

If it takes all day to download, this one is worth the wait: See if you can guess who is doing this punk rock video. It puts a radically new twist on meaning of 'glasnost'! A 1.5mb AVI file brought to us by Igor Kelzya and Bekar Records.

Popular Songs on MP3

Here is contemporary Russian popular music in CD quality. A wide variety of genres from ballads to acid rock.

Now Sing Them Yourself?

Here are some sources for the lyrics to Russian songs in KOI8 Cyrillic fonts and transliterated for regular fonts.

Hits of the MIT Russian Club

The MIT Russian Club is the repository of the lyrics of Russian popular songs written by virtually all the major contemporary popular song writers. To decode them you will need the music, some of which is provided on the site. The lyrics are provided in KOI8 fonts and transliterated.

Simon Hawkin's Russian Bards

This site includes a healthy selection of Russian popular songs, including the latest songs from the Russian army fighting in Chechnya.

Russian Composers

Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)

Information on one of the ultimate sources of 20th century music is beginning to appear on the Web. The Bolshoy Theatre has pictures from their productions of two of his operas. Hopefully, there will be more soon. Stravinsky owes too much to Mussorgsky for the latter to be so ignored.

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Only a few web sites are devoted to Sergei Prokiev. Bruce maintains one with a good deal of promise. Chad Twedt offers a short essay on Prokofiev here.

Sergei Vassilievich Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

Sergei Rachmaninov

Vassilievich Rachmaninoff was born on April 1, 1873, at Semyonovo, the family estate near the ancient city of Novgorod. He was not only a gifted pianist who loved to tour the US, but was a major romantic composer, as well. Rachmaninoff was associated with the Western-oriented St. Petersburg Conservatory with the Rubenstein brothers and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The International Rachmaninoff Society provides a history and critique of Rachmaninoff's lesser known 3rd Piano Concerto. I have also been able to find a a Rachmaninoff Lover's page, for those currently or previously in love. Whatever the Web has to offer on Rachmaninoff can probably be found at one of the sites of the Rachmaninoff Webring.

Nikolai * Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

A biography of Rimsky-Korsakov and the libretto in transliterated Russian to his opera, May Night, based on a story by Gogol may be found here. Even better, OperaGlass, a site maintained on Rick Bogart's workstation at Stanford, contains a listing of all of Rimsky-Korsakov's operas with a libretto, synopsis, performance history for most of them.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

Ian McDonald's Music under Soviet Rule has become the richest source of information on Shostakovich. It now includes a substantial literary archive of articles on Shostakovich and his music as well as a detailed chronology of his life. Simon Hawkin's Shostakovich site also has some interesting links. Alexandre H. Hohmann offers pictures, libretti, sound files and links at his mysterious site. Another rich resource of Shostakovichiana may be found at the site of the same name. New! Association Internationale "Dimitri Chostokovich"


Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

Stravinsky, of course, played a major role in changing the course of music in the 20th century with the infamous debut of 'The Rite of Spring' in Paris in 1913. An excellent short biography may be found in Finland. But John Harrington's site remains the best source of information on Stravinsky. It now includes an complete annotated list of Stravinsky's works. Last but certainly not least comes Victor Huang's excellent site, rich with photographs and MIDI files of Stravinsky's music. A good place to start.

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Tchaikovsky, the composer of the music you are now listening to, was the ultimate master of Romantic music. Remarkably, there is currently very little about Tchaikovsky on the Web--a time-line, and a small collection of MIDI sequences of his music.

Russian Musical Instruments

The Balalaika and Domra

The quintessential Russian musical instrument is the triangular balalaika. Would you believe it, there is an association for these instruments in America.

Russian Wind Instruments

Robin LaPasha of Duke University has a page briefly introducing Russian folk wind instruments.

Other Russian Music Sites

Classical Music of St. Petersburg

This site features the concert schedules of all the concert halls, their addresses, biographies of composers (forthcoming), and MP3 snippets of classical music. Worth a visit now and getting better every day.

Bolshoi Theatre

The mother of them all is the Bolshoi—opera and ballet in one theater. One of the world's great opera houses and home of the finest classical ballet troup in the world. The Bolshoi Theater web-server provides a complete history complete with historical photographs. The also has several pages on the Bolshoi, including a history of it and an interview with its director, Vassiliev. Finally, Seanet has a brief description, too.

Gregorian Chants

Gregorian chant is one of the many traditions of liturgical song that developed in the Christian church during the medieval period. The liturgical chant texts were created in ancient languages, the most important of which were Greek, Latin, Old Slavonic, the language of the Bulgarian, Russian, and Serbian Orthodox churches.

Kirov-Mariinsky Ballet

The St. Petersburg ballet theater was established by Catherine the Great in the Mariinsky Theater and shortly became one of the great companies in the world. This site contains a history, interviews with principle dancers, instructors, a review of the Vaganova Ballet School, and a great deal of information on the Nutcracker Ballet from which the music you now hear was taken.

Les Ballets Russe

Program notes, information on Nijinski, Pavlova, Fokine, Balanchine, and all the great performers and composers of the Russian company which took the breath of Paris away at the beginning of the century. Jenny Gorman and Chris Sippel have provided a short essay on the Ballets at the Rhodes College site.

Lyle Neff's Files on Russian Classical Music

Links to information on a wide range of classical Russian composers of the 19th and 20th century along, including biographies, librettos, lists of works. It may be soon moving to Delaware.

Music under Soviet Rule

Thanks to Southern Illinois University Ian McDonald's delightful site is back with all its general information on Soviet music plus individual pages on Prokofiev, Shostakovich and many minor composers. It also contains CD information, chronologies of more than a dozen Soviet composers, and information on Soviet music discussion groups.

Musical Heritage of Eastern Europe and Russia

This is the web site of an exciting course on Russian and Eastern European music and culture by Patricia Gray of Rhodes College. It includes a rich array of background notes on music and icons, graphics, musical selections in AIFF files, and links to related sites. A wonderful place to visit even if you are not enrolled, if you like Russian music.

Onno van Rijen's 20th Century Russian Music Site

This is a site with opus lists of all the well-known 20th century Russian composers and most of the minor ones. There is also information about the availability of CDs with these composers' music.

Russkaya i sovetskaya klassicheskaya muzyka

A very lovely Russian site which keeps up with internet connections dealing with Russian and Soviet classical music. The graphic design of the site is worth the visit. In Russian; requires KOI8 fonts.

St. Petersburg Conservatory

A magnificent site with quick, appealing and most appropriate JAVA applets. This site is interesting for its history and links to other Russian music sites, especially Russian Classics On-line--real stereo performances of various world symphonies delivered via stream audio. Be sure you have the Real Audio plug-in installed before you enter the concert hall; you will want to leave the music on as you continue to move around the web. If you don't already have it, you may download it on the site. This is a major on-line event for Russian culture. Don't miss it!

Vladimir Vysotsky

Vysotsky's gruff voice and starkly, sometimes slyly, poetic lyrics have inspired two generations of Russians and are working their way into the young hearts of a third. In addition to the major Vysotsky web site, Little Russia has dozens of his songs recorded in several different formats, the poems in written form, and Quick Time movies of Vysotsky.

Web Pages of Russian Rock Music

Begin with Tusovka: The Historical Political Development of Soviet Rock Music by Tracy Donovan Drake. Then, from Aquarium to Shura B2, if they have a web site, you can connect with any Russian rock group here. 'Here' is RIM, the Russian Independent Music Site. It also has a rack of pages on Russian rock groups. An interesting Russian Blues website also lurks somewhere out there in Cyberia.

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'Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy'
MIDI Sequence by
from The Nutcracker by P. I. Tchaikovsky
R. J. Stratton, Jr
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© 1996 Robert Beard