Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Kupfer, Peter. “Volga-Volga: ‘The Story of a Song,’ Vernacular Modernism, and the Realization of Soviet Music.” Journal of Musicology 30 (Fall 2013): 530-76.

Soviet director Grigory Aleksandrov and composer Isaak Dunayevsky’s third musical comedy film, Volga-Volga (1938), successfully balances entertainment and the ideological demands of Socialist Realism in large part through its music. The main conflict of the film is a feud between a folk music ensemble and a classical orchestra that culminates in a joint performance of the film’s theme song, Song about the Volga. During the opening meeting between the two leads, Strelka (folk musician) and Alyosha (classical musician), Alyosha tries to convince Strelka of the grandeur of classical music by performing an excerpt of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, which Strelka finds boring. Likewise, Alyosha does not immediately accept Strelka’s folk song, Song about the Volga. During a later “divertissement,” various classical and folk ensembles chase a city official around town, eager to demonstrate their musical ability so that they may be selected to represent the town at the upcoming Olympiad. Throughout the film, the performances by Alyosha and Strelka dramatize the apparent divide between high art and low art, a central concern of 1930s Soviet music. Ultimately, the film’s thesis is presented in the final performance of Song about the Volga presented with full orchestral accompaniment, modeling an ideal blend of classical, popular, and folk music traditions that spoke to audiences and Socialist Realist critics alike.

Works: Isaak Dunayevsky: score to Volga-Volga (542-43, 546-47, 549-53, 554)

Sources: Wagner: Tristan und Isolde (542-43); Mozart: Rondo alla turca from Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major, K. 331 (546-47); Traditional: Samara (546-47), Shire krug (546-47); Iz-za ostrova na strezhen (546-47), Ei ukhnem (Song of the Volga Boatmen) (546-47), Zhil-bïl u babushka serekiy kozlik (546-47); Rossini: William Tell Overture (546-47); Dunayevsky: Molodezhnaya (546-47, 549-53); Schubert: Moment musical No. 3 in F Minor, D. 780 (549), Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin (554)

Index Classifications: 1900s, Film

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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