(Moscow Nights, Подмосковные вечера)
The start of one of the most famous Russian songs, "Moscow Nights", has been very difficult, as it is often the case with the things that appear to be genius afterwards.
In Moscow the first Sports Festival of the Soviet People was being held from 5 to 16 August 1956. The Soviet Union did not participate in the Olympic Movement, at first because of the boycot by the IOC, later on its own initiative, because of the ideological differences. On this special occasion of the Russian Sports Festival, it was decided to make a documentary film about athletics. In 1955 the Moscow Studio Of Documentary Films began to mount the picture "In The Days Of The Sports Festival". Yet the authors of the picture were tormented with doubts, as at that time the athletics had not so many fans, and the stands of the stadium remained almost empty during the competitions. The film's prospects were very obscure.
In order to revive the documentary film, it was decided to add a musical and song accompaniment, for which the composer V. Solovyev-Sedoy (1907-1979) and the poet M. Matusovsky (1915-1990) were invited. They both were quite famous by then, and it was known that they were able to solve complex problems quickly and accurately.
Dashingly tackling the matter, the authors wrote two cheerful songs for choir, which sounded in the episodes of the competition. For the episode with the athletes, who had a rest for gathering strength before the next start, they dug up a song that Solovyev-Sedoy had composed two years earlier on the words, written by Matusovsky, and that was inspired by a quiet evening in Leningrad, and the closeness of a loved one. At that moment Solovyev-Sedoy had thought that the song would fail, but now he thought that he might use it. The title, that had initially been "Leningrad Nights", was changed into "Moscow Nights", and the song was presented at the Moscow Studio, where it was received with only reservation. Mark Bernes (1911-1969), the popular Soviet actor and singer, was offered to perform the song, but he reacted bluntly. The music seemed him to be nothing, and about the words he said: "What kind of song is this, that can be heard and not heard, and what river is it, that can move, but not move?".
Vladimir Troshin performs "Moscow Nights"
It was obvious that Bernes would not perform "Moscow Nights", and therefore the soloist of the Bolshoi Theater, Eugene Kibkalo, was asked. After his performance, the filmmakers called Solovyev-Sedoy to come to Moscow: they admitted that they had heard about his great talent, also Matusovsky's, but whatever they tried, they did not recognize it in the song they had written, and they doubted whether the song was worth being sung in the movie.
After this both authors started to believe themselves that "Moscow Nights" was their own big failure. However, there was not much time left, there was no time for writing a new song, but at this point a lucky break happened: in order to sing a song for the film, the singer and author of the Moscow Art Theater, Vladimir Troshin (1926-2008), was invited to the Studio. At the moment he arrived, he heard the unfamiliar songs being played with a recorder, and the song performed by E. Kibkalo caught his attention. As he was sitting next to Solovyev-Sedoy, he asked him about the song, but the composer answered that it was nothing more than rubbish. Yet, Troshin wanted to sing it, as he liked the song, and could feel in it the atmosphere and the mental state of a person in love.
Troshin succeeded in persuading the composer to give him a chance. The orchestra was asked to play the accompaniment of the song for one last time, and Troshin started to sing in his own manner, different from that of Kibkalo.
He sang the complete song, while all those who worked on the film gathered and listened. With his performance "Moscow Nights" was accepted for the film. Three months later the picture was released, but the athletes behaved so noisy that the music could almost not be heard. The picture failed and gained a place in the archives, together with Moscow Nights.
Some time passed since "Moscow Nights" had been performed in the documentary movie, but then Troshin was called to a radio station, as there was a rule existing that said that, after a song had sounded in a movie, it should be recorded for the radio fund. At the radio station they wanted him to record two songs that he had sang with choir, but Troshin refused: he would only sing them, if they also would have found him the other song that had been performed for the movie: "Moscow Nights". Only one week later Troshin was called to the studio of the All-Union Radio Recording House again. There was an orchestra waiting for him, a huge women's choir, and also the composer and conductor Viktor Knushevitsky (1906-1972), who had made the arrangement for "Moscow Nights". In only one take the song had been recorded, and the next morning the song premiered on the radio. Immediately it obtained a big success, and the radio station was flooded by the letters of the people who did not recall the title of the song, but mentioned the river that moved and not moved, the soul that unfolded and then rolled up, ...
The next year, in July 1957, the 6th World Festival of Youth was being held in Moscow, on the frame of which an international song contest was linked. Solovyev-Sedoy, who proceeded to underestimate "Moscow Nights", brought to the contest his new song "If the Guys of the Whole Earth", which, according to his grandson, he had always not liked very much because of its redundant pathos,- the reason was that the poets Eugene Domatovsky and Mark Bernes had just overpowered the composer, having given him even no possibility to complete the song, but quickly recorded it after the exemption, and radiobroadcasted it not later than the next day. At the end of the contest, Solovyev-Sedoy was rewarded with the golden medal, not for his new song, but for "Moscow Nights". From this moment on, the sounds of "Moscow Nights" could be heard at any moment, and at any place: the people liked the music and performed it at any possible occasion.
Only one year later, at the beginning of 1958, the First Moscow International Competition named after P. I. Tchaikovsky was held. The very talented American pianist Van Cliburn did win the contest, and after his musical triumph he toured the USSR. Once back in Moscow, he visited the House of Composers, where he played for fun together with Solovyev-Sedoy, ending their interplay with "Moscow Nights". When playing his final concert in Moscow, which was broadcasted on television and radio, he played his piano presentation of "Moscow Nights", and got a thunderous applause from the public. With Van Cliburn the song "Moscow Nights" started its journey, conquering the world.
Later Anatoly Solovyanenko would sing "Moscow Nights" on a competition in Naples, where he got the second prize. His performance was called unimaginary, and gave another powerful impetus to the international spread of the song.
Van Cliburn at the First International Competition P. I. Tchaikovsky in Moscow, 1958
Now, many years later, "Moscow Nights" is worldwide still seen as one of the most popular Russian songs, together with Katyusha and Kalinka.
Не слышны в саду даже шорохи,
Все здесь замерло до утра.
Если б знали вы, как мне дороги
Речка движется и не движется,
Вся из лунного серебра.
Песня слышится и не слышится
В эти тихие вечера.
Что ж ты милая, смотришь искоса,
Низко голову наклоня?
Трудно высказать и не высказать
Все, что на сердце у меня.
А рассвет уже все заметнее...
Так, пожалуйста, будь добра,
Не забудь и ты эти летние
Ne slyshny v sadu dazhe shorokhi,
Vse zdes' zamerlo do utra.
Yesli b znali vy, kak mne dorogi
Rechka dvizhetsya i ne dvizhetsya,
Vsya iz lunnogo serebra.
Pesnya slyshitsya i ne slyshitsya
V eti tikhiye vechera.
Chto zh ty milaya, smotrish' iskosa,
Nizko golovu naklonya?
Trudno vyskazat' i ne vyskazat'
Vse, chto na serdtse u menya.
A rassvet uzhe vse zametneye...
Tak, pozhaluysta, bud' dobra,
Ne zabud' i ty eti letniye
No rustles stay in the garden more,
Everything`s calm till the day lights.
If You only knew, how I adore
The warm Moscow peaceful nights.
And the river moves like it doesn`t flow,
Full made of the silver moonlight.
The song sounds loud, or very low
In this Moscow peaceful night.
You my darling, why do you look askance,
Bowing your head downward?
I can nor contain, nor voice the intense
Feelings being for me deep inward.
And the dawn gets more observable,
Putting all the feelings to rights.
So, don`t forget these adorable
Summer Moscow peaceful nights!
Translation by Alexander