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Petersburg

Georgy Sviridov (b. 1915 - d. 1998)

Composer
Georgy Sviridov (b. 1915 - d. 1998)
Composition Year
1995
Work Movements
1. The Weathercock
2. The Golden Oar
3. The Bride
4. A Voice from the Chorus
5. I Am Nailed to the Bar
6. Brought with the Wind
7. Petersburg Song
8. Born in the Years of Trouble
9. The Virgin in the City
Artists
Yuri Serov [piano], Lyudmila Shkirtil [mezzo-soprano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Francis Humphrys

Georgy Vasilevich Sviridov [1915-1998]
Petersburg – vocal poem with text by Alexander Blok [1995]
Translation by Levon Akopjan

1. Flyuger (The Pennant – The Weathercock) 1905
2. Zolotoe Veslo (The Golden Oar) 1902
3. Nevesta (The Bride) 1908
4. Golos Iz Hora (A Voice from the Chorus) 1910-1914
5. Ya Prigvozhdyon K Traktirnoj Stojke (I am nailed to the tavern counter) 1908
6. Veter Prinyos Iz Dalyoka (The breeze has brought from far away) 1901
7. Petersburgskaya Pesenka (Petersburg Song) 1906
8. Rozhdyonnye V Goda Gluhie (Those born in obscure years) 1914
9. Bogomater' V Gorode (The Virgin in the City) 1905

1. Flyuger (The Weathercock) 1905

Tiho. I budet vsyo tishe. - It is calm. And will be more calm
Flag bespoleznyj opushchen. - The useless flag is lowered.
Tol'ko flyugarka na kryshe - The little weathercock on the roof, alone,
Sladko poyot o gryadushchem. - is singing a sweet song about the future.
Vetrom v polnebe raskinut, - The wind has spread the poor enchanted cockerel
Dymom i solncem vzvolnovan, - over the half-sky;
Bednyj petuh ocharovan, - agitated by the smoke and the sun,
V sinyuyu glub' oprokinut. - the thing is overturned in the blue deep.
Smoly pahuchie zharki, - The fragrant pitch is burning,
Dali izvechno tumanny… - the horizons are misty, from time immemorial.
Sladki mne pesni flyugarki: - The weathercock's songs seem sweet to me;
Poj, petushok olovyannyj! - sing, my little tin cockerel.


2. Zolotoe Veslo (The Golden Oar) 1902

My vstrechalis' s toboj na zakate - We would meet at daybreak,
Ty veslom rassekala zaliv. - You would cleave the bay with your oar,
Ya lyubil tvoyo beloe plat'e, - I was fond of your white dress,
Utonchyonnost' mechty razlyubiv. - since I had lost my passion for subtle reverie...
Byli stranny bezmolvnye vstrechi. - Our chance meetings were strange...
Vperedi – na peschanoj kose - Just ahead, on the spit of sand,
Zagoralis' vechernie svechi. - the evening candles were flaming,
Kto-to dumal o blednoj krase. - and someone was weeping for the pale beauty...
Priblizhenij, sblizhenij, sgoranij – But the sky, azure and serene, rejects
Ne priemlet lazurnaya tish'... - every approaching, every merging, every flaming...
My vstrechalis' v vechernem tumane, - We would meet in the evening mists
Gde u berega ryab' i kamysh. - on the ruby shore, where the waves are rippling...
Ni toski, ni lyubvi, ni obidy, - Neither yearning, nor love, nor resentment;
Vsyo pomerklo, proshlo, otoshlo... - they have faded, have gone by, are over...
Belyj stan, golosa panihidy - Your white figure, the voices of the Requiem,
I tvoyo zolotoe veslo. - and your golden oar.

3. Nevesta (The Bride) 1908

Bozh'ya mater' Utoli moya pechali - Our Lady Soothe-my-sorrow
Pered grobom shla, svetla, tiha. - was before the coffin, bright and serene,
A za grobom – v traurnoj vuali - and behind the coffin, in a black veil,
SHla nevesta, provozhaya zheniha... - the bride walked, she was bidding farewell to her bridegroom...


Byl on tol'ko literator modnyj - He was but a fashionable man of letters,
Tol'ko slov koshchunstvennyh tvorec... - a creater of blasphemous words...
No mertvec – rodnoj dushe narodnoj: - yet every dead man is dear to the people's soul,
Vsyakij svyato chtit ona konec. - for the people revere every death.


I navstrechu klanyalis', krestili - And those who met the procession bowed their
Mnogodumnyj, mnogotrudnyj lob. - heads, and crossed themselves
A druz'ya i blizkie pylili - Heavy with thought and work,
Na ikonu, na neyo, na grob... - while the friends and relatives scattered dust on the icon, on her, on the coffin...


I s kakoyu beskonechnoj grust'yu - And with what infinite sadness
(Ne o nyom - Bog vest' o kom?) - she was accepting the word of condolence
Prinyala ona slova sochuvstvij - and the casual wreaths, one after another,
I venok sluchajnyj za venkom... - though she was grieving not for him


EHtih fraz izbityh povtoren'ya, - (God knows for whom she was grieving)
Nikomu ne nuzhnye slova - These repeated, standard phrases,
Vozvela ona v venec tvoren'ya, - these words which nobody needs -
V tajnuyu ulybku bozhestva... - she has transformed them to the acme of into a secret divine smile...


Slovno zdes', gde peli i kadili, - As if there, where people were singing and burning incense,
Gde i smert' ne mozhet byt' tiha, - where even death cannot be silent
Ubralas' ona fatoj ot pyli - she was waiting for another bridegroom,
I zhdala Inogo ZHeniha... - dressed in a bridal veil against the dust


4. Golos Iz Hora (A Voice from the Chorus) 1910-1914

Kak chasto plachem – vy i ya – How often do we weep, you and I,
Nad zhalkoj zhizniyu svoej! - over our wretched lives!
O, esli b znali vy, druz'ya, - Oh, my friends, if you only knew,
Holod i mrak gryadushchih dnej! - the cold darkness to come!


Teper' ty miloj ruku zhmyosh', - Today you press your beloved's hand,
Igraesh' s neyu, shutya, - you make merry with her,
I plachesh' ty, zametiv lozh', - you weep only for a lie,
Ili v ruke lyubimoj nozh, - or else for a knife in her hand,
Ditya, ditya! - Poor child, poor child!


Lzhi i kovarstvu mery net, - Lies and perfidies are infinite,
A smert' – daleka. - and death is distant...
Vsyo budet chernee strashnyj svet, - The fearful world will grow yet darker,
I vsyo bezumnej vihr' planet - the whirl of the planets will grow yet wilder,
Eshchyo veka, veka! - and this will last for an age...


I vek poslednij, uzhasnej vsekh, - And both you and I will see the last age,
Uvidim i vy i ya. - the most fearful age.
Vsyo nebo skroet gnusnyj grekh, - The heavens will be clouded by repulsive sin,
Na vsekh ustah zastynet smekh, - laughter will freeze on all lips,
Toska nebytiya... - everyone will yearn for annihilation


Vesny, ditya, ty budesh' zhdat' – Oh child, you will wait for spring,
Vesna obmanet. - but spring will deceive you;
Ty budesh' solnce na nebo zvat' – you will call for the sun to rise,
Solnce ne vstanet. - but the sun will not rise.


I krik (tvoj),  kogda ty nachnyosh' krichat', - and when you start crying, your cry will
Kak kamen', kanet... - disappear in the depths, like a stone...
Bud'te zh dovol'ny zhizn'yu svoej, - So, children, be content with your lives
Tishe vody, nizhe travy! - more silent than water, lower than grass!
O, esli b znali, deti, vy, - If only you knew
Holod i mrak gryadushchih dnej! - the cold and darkness of the days to come


5. Ya Prigvozhdyon K Traktirnoj Stojke (I am nailed to the tavern counter) 1908

YA prigvozhdyon k traktirnoj stojke - I am nailed to a tavern counter
YA p'yan davno. Mne vsyo – ravno. - I have been drunk for a long time, I am indifferent to everything.
Von schastie moyo – na trojke - My happiness is there, on a troika,
V srebristyj dym uneseno... - Taken away into a silver haze...


Letit na trojke, potonulo - It flies on the troika, it vanishes
V snegu vremen, v dali vekov... - in snows of time, in centuries...
I tol'ko dushu zahlestnulo - only the soul is overflowing
Srebristoj mgloj iz-pod podkov... - with the silver haze from under the horseshoes...


V gluhuyu temen' iskry mechet, - The sparks fly in the blind darkness
Ot iskr vsyu noch', vsyu noch' svetlo... - because of them, it is light all night.
Bubenchik pod dugoj lepechet - The sleighbells murmur over the shaft-bow
O tom, chto schastie proshlo... - of the happiness now gone...


I tol'ko sbruya zolotaya - And only the golden harness
Vsyu noch' vidna... Vsyu noch' slyshna... - is seen all night, is heard all night.
A ty, dusha... dusha gluhaya... - and you, my soul, my blind soul,
P'yanym p'yana... p'yanym p'yana... - you're drunk, you're dead drunk.


6. Veter Prinyos Iz Dalyoka (The breeze has brought from far away)1901

Veter prinyos izdalyoka - The breeze has brought from far away
Pesni vesennej namyok, - a motif of spring's song;
Gde-to svetlo i gluboko - somewhere, bright and deep,
Neba otkrylsya klochok. - a piece of heaven has been revealed.


V ehtoj bezdonnoj lazuri, - In that fathomless blue sky,
V sumerkah blizkoj vesny - at the dawn of the approaching spring,
Plakali zimnie buri, - the winter storms were weeping,
Reyali zvyozdnye sny. - the starry dreams were floating.


Robko, temno i gluboko - My strings were weeping,
Plakali struny moi. - timidly, darkly and deeply;
Veter prinyos izdalyoka - the breeze has brought from far away
Zvuchnye pesni tvoi. - the ringing motif of your song.


7. Petersburgskaya Pesenka (Petersburg Song) 1906

Hozhu, brozhu ponuryj, - I'm wandering, depressed,
Odin v svoej nore. - in my lonely lair;
Pridyot sharmanshchik hmuryj, - the dismal organ grinder
Zaplachet na dvore... - will come and lament outside


O toj svobodnoj dole, - about the free life
CHto mne ne suzhdena, - which I will never share,
O tom, chto veter v pole, - about the steppe wind
A na dvore – vesna. - about the new-blown spring.


A mne – kakoj delo? - Yet what does it matter?
Brozhu odin, zabyt. - I wander alone and lost.
I svechka dogorela, - The candle has burnt down,
I mayatnik stuchit. - and the pendulum ticks.


Odna, odna nadezhda - My one and only hope
Von tam, v eyo okne. - is there, at her window,
Svetla eyo odezhda, - she whose clothes are bright
Ona pridyot ko mne. - will come and visit me.


Lico moyo belee, - My face is paler
CHem belaya stena... - than a white wall...
Opyat', opyat' srobeyu, - Yet again I will fee shy
Kogda pridyot ona... - when she comes...


Zachem ona prihodit - Why does she come
So mnoyu govorit'? - to talk to me?
Zachem v iglu provodit - Why does she pass through the needle'seye
Vesyolen'kuyu nit'? - that merry thread?


Zachem ona ronyaet - Why does she shed
Vesyolye slova? - those merry words?
Zachem lico sklonyaet - Why does she bow her head
I pryachet v kruzheva? - and hide her face in the laces?


Ved' nechego boyat'sya - There is nothing to fear
I nechego teryat'... - and nothing to lose...
No nado li skazat'sya? - Must I confess my feelings?
No mozhno li skazat'? - May I say all?


I chto ej molvit' - nezhnoj? - But what can I tell this tender creature?
CHto serdce rascvelo? - That my heart is in bloom?
CHto veter veet snezhnyj? - That the wind brings snowflakes?
CHto v komnate svetlo? - That my room is full of light?


8. Rozhdyonnye V Goda Gluhie (Those born in obscure years) 1914

Rozhdyonnye v goda gluhie - Those born in obscure years
Puti ne pomnyat svoego. - do not remember their way,
My – deti strashnyh let Rossii – - and we, children of Russia's dreadful years
Zabyt' ne v silah nichego. - can forget nothing.


Ispepelyayushchie gody! - Oh, years which have reduced us to ashes!
Bezum'ya l' v vas, nadezhdy l' vest'? - Have you brought madness or a ray of hope?
Ot dnej vojny, ot dnej svobody – - In the days of war and freedom
Krovavyj otsvet v licah est'. - a blood-red shimmer appeared on our faces.


Est' nemota – to gul nabata - We have grown dumb; the alarm bell
Zastavil zagradit' usta. - has forced us to close our lips.
V serdcah, vostorzhennyh kogda-to, - In hearts, once full of eagerness,
Est' rokovaya pustota. - now there is a fateful void...


I pust' nad nashim smertnym lozhem - And let the cawing ravens fly up
Vzov'yotsya s krikom voron'yo, – above our death-bed -
Te, kto dostojnej, Bozhe, Bozhe,
- may those more worthy, God, oh God,
Da uzryat carstvie tvoyo! - behold Thy Kingdom!


9. Bogomater' V Gorode (The Virgin in the City) 1905

Ty prohodish' bez ulybki, - You are passing by without a smile,
Opustivshaya resnicy, - your eyes are cast down,
I vo mrake nad soborom - and in the darkness above the Cathedral
Zolotyatsya kupola. - the golden domes are shining.


Kak lico tvoyo pohozhe - Your face resembles so vividly
Na vechernih bogorodic, - the evening Virgins,
Opuskayushchih resnicy, - who cast down their eyes,
Propadayushchih vo mgle... - who disappear in the darkness...


No s toboj idyot kudryavyj - But there is a little boy with you,
Krotkij mal'chik v beloj shapke, - a curly-haired, gentle boy, wearing a white cap.
Ty vedyosh' ego za ruchku, - You are leading him by the hand,
Ne dayosh' emu upast'. - you do not allow him to fall.


YA stoyu v teni portala, - I am in the shade of the portal,
Tam, gde duet rezkij veter, - where the sharp wind blows,
Zastilayushchij slezami - and my strained eyes
Napryazhyonnye glaza. - are clouded with tears.


YA hochu vnezapno vyjti - I would like to spring up before your eyes
I voskliknut': «Bogomater'! - and to exclaim "Oh, Virgin!
Dlya chego v moj chyornyj gorod - Why have you brought the Infant
Ty Mladenca privela?» - to my black city?"


No yazyk bessilen kriknut'. - But my tongue is powerless to shout;
Ty prohodish'. Za toboyu - you are passing by, and, behind you,
Nad svyashchennymi sledami - above the blessed footprints,
Pochivaet sinij mrak. - the blue darkness slumbers.


I smotryu ya, vspominaya, - And I remain, watching, remembering
Kak opushcheny resnicy, - your downcast eyes,
Kak tvoj mal'chik v beloj shapke - and how your little boy with a white cap
Ulybnulsya na tebya. - smiled at you.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________


Sviridov worked on the vocal poem Petersburg for some twenty years. He completed it in 1995, especially for Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Mikhail Arkadiev. The work comprises nine short poems by Alexander Blok, which date from the period January 1901 to September 1914. Blok was one of the poets from the Silver Age of Russian history that saw an incredible cultural Renaissance in all the arts, poetry, music, painting, architecture, philosophy and patronage of the arts. This was all swept away by the War and the Revolution – we grew a hundred years older in an hour. The poetry of Blok, one of the greatest of Russian poets, was full of Cassandra-like premonitions of catastrophe.

 

The title chosen by Sviridov for his cycle alludes to the romantic and post-romantic myth of St Petersburg: the city of the Bronze Horseman, the Queen of Spades, the city of the magnificent architecture, the city of the Neva and the white nights. The title Petersburg also echoes the famous novel by Andrey Bely of the same name. Sviridov was a masterful composer, who infused his songs with all the lyricism and emotional impact of Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, while maintaining a distinctly modern voice. He had an almost Schubertian gift for matching his simple melodic ideas to the poems he chose. In the hands of two great Russian performers the effect is devastating.

 

The opening song The Weathercock acts as a prologue. It introduces the idea of continually flowing Time, of infinite and misty, dangerously captivating Space. The music, pervaded with an unceasing pulse, gives the little tin cockerel the enchanted life the poem calls for, launched into the empyrean by the piano’s wonderful postlude.

 

The Golden Oar introduces the image of the nameless Beloved. This is a variation on Blok’s famous mystical Stranger, who haunted his poems. The motifs of the white dress and funeral music, too, play a substantial part: the theme of the bride is hinted at almost unnoticeably, strangely related to the theme of death. Sviridov himself had youthful recollections of strolling on the misty shores of the Gulf of Finland where Blok would meet his Beloved.

 

The symbolism of The Golden Oar is stretched even further in the third song’s funeral procession. In the coffin is Blok himself, the fashionable but blasphemous man of letters, the black-veiled Bride is both the Beloved Stranger and the bride of another bridegroom, Christ himself. The symbolism here embraces both Mary Magdalene and Our Lady herself, who is to reappear with her child in The Virgin in the City.

 

A Voice from the Chorus is in the same devastating vein as Gamayun the Prophesying Bird that Shostakovich set in his Seven Poems by Alexander Blok – a cry of fear and horror at the terrifying times to come. This poem was completed in 1914. I am nailed to the Tavern Counter is the traditional Russian solution to loss of happiness – My happiness is there on a troika, taken away into a silver haze. But the poems final words sound out as a cry of human solitude in the face of death.

 

The Breeze Has Brought From Far Away is, except for The Weathercock, the only part of the cycle written in a major key. It is the cycle's bright intermezzo and at the same time, a slow introduction to the Petersburg Song. Is it only in Russia that the advent of Spring, somewhere bright and deep, is greeted with a funereal Adagio? Nonetheless the major mode and the rhythmic ostinato hail the opening of heaven in the St Petersburg sky and associates this song with the little tin cockerel. The Petersburg Song, the only lively one in the cycle, revives the powerful image of the nameless Beloved as a sign of hope in the midst of solitude and despair. What can I tell this tender creature? That my heart is in bloom?

 

Born in the Years of Trouble is one of Blok’s most famous poems. Time stops for these words. In hearts once full of eagerness, now there is a fateful void - another poem from 1914 that asks if the years have brought madness or a ray of hope. The Virgin in the City pulls all these strands together – the nameless Beloved, Stranger, Bride embodied in the lonely image of the Virgin walking through the snow in my black city with the Child holding her hand and smiling at her.

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Petersburg

Composer: Georgy Sviridov (b. 1915 - d. 1998)
Performance date: Thursday 5th July 2018
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Georgy Sviridov (b. 1915 - d. 1998)
Work Title Petersburg
Composition Year 1995
Work Movements 1. The Weathercock
2. The Golden Oar
3. The Bride
4. A Voice from the Chorus
5. I Am Nailed to the Bar
6. Brought with the Wind
7. Petersburg Song
8. Born in the Years of Trouble
9. The Virgin in the City
Artist(s) Yuri Serov [piano], Lyudmila Shkirtil [mezzo-soprano]
Performance Date Thursday 5th July 2018
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Late Great Concert
Duration 00:35:02
Recording Engineer Ciaran Cullen, RTÉ
Instrumentation Category Duo
Instrumentation Mez-solo, pf
Programme Note Writer © Francis Humphrys

Georgy Vasilevich Sviridov [1915-1998]
Petersburg – vocal poem with text by Alexander Blok [1995]
Translation by Levon Akopjan

1. Flyuger (The Pennant – The Weathercock) 1905
2. Zolotoe Veslo (The Golden Oar) 1902
3. Nevesta (The Bride) 1908
4. Golos Iz Hora (A Voice from the Chorus) 1910-1914
5. Ya Prigvozhdyon K Traktirnoj Stojke (I am nailed to the tavern counter) 1908
6. Veter Prinyos Iz Dalyoka (The breeze has brought from far away) 1901
7. Petersburgskaya Pesenka (Petersburg Song) 1906
8. Rozhdyonnye V Goda Gluhie (Those born in obscure years) 1914
9. Bogomater' V Gorode (The Virgin in the City) 1905

1. Flyuger (The Weathercock) 1905

Tiho. I budet vsyo tishe. - It is calm. And will be more calm
Flag bespoleznyj opushchen. - The useless flag is lowered.
Tol'ko flyugarka na kryshe - The little weathercock on the roof, alone,
Sladko poyot o gryadushchem. - is singing a sweet song about the future.
Vetrom v polnebe raskinut, - The wind has spread the poor enchanted cockerel
Dymom i solncem vzvolnovan, - over the half-sky;
Bednyj petuh ocharovan, - agitated by the smoke and the sun,
V sinyuyu glub' oprokinut. - the thing is overturned in the blue deep.
Smoly pahuchie zharki, - The fragrant pitch is burning,
Dali izvechno tumanny… - the horizons are misty, from time immemorial.
Sladki mne pesni flyugarki: - The weathercock's songs seem sweet to me;
Poj, petushok olovyannyj! - sing, my little tin cockerel.


2. Zolotoe Veslo (The Golden Oar) 1902

My vstrechalis' s toboj na zakate - We would meet at daybreak,
Ty veslom rassekala zaliv. - You would cleave the bay with your oar,
Ya lyubil tvoyo beloe plat'e, - I was fond of your white dress,
Utonchyonnost' mechty razlyubiv. - since I had lost my passion for subtle reverie...
Byli stranny bezmolvnye vstrechi. - Our chance meetings were strange...
Vperedi – na peschanoj kose - Just ahead, on the spit of sand,
Zagoralis' vechernie svechi. - the evening candles were flaming,
Kto-to dumal o blednoj krase. - and someone was weeping for the pale beauty...
Priblizhenij, sblizhenij, sgoranij – But the sky, azure and serene, rejects
Ne priemlet lazurnaya tish'... - every approaching, every merging, every flaming...
My vstrechalis' v vechernem tumane, - We would meet in the evening mists
Gde u berega ryab' i kamysh. - on the ruby shore, where the waves are rippling...
Ni toski, ni lyubvi, ni obidy, - Neither yearning, nor love, nor resentment;
Vsyo pomerklo, proshlo, otoshlo... - they have faded, have gone by, are over...
Belyj stan, golosa panihidy - Your white figure, the voices of the Requiem,
I tvoyo zolotoe veslo. - and your golden oar.

3. Nevesta (The Bride) 1908

Bozh'ya mater' Utoli moya pechali - Our Lady Soothe-my-sorrow
Pered grobom shla, svetla, tiha. - was before the coffin, bright and serene,
A za grobom – v traurnoj vuali - and behind the coffin, in a black veil,
SHla nevesta, provozhaya zheniha... - the bride walked, she was bidding farewell to her bridegroom...


Byl on tol'ko literator modnyj - He was but a fashionable man of letters,
Tol'ko slov koshchunstvennyh tvorec... - a creater of blasphemous words...
No mertvec – rodnoj dushe narodnoj: - yet every dead man is dear to the people's soul,
Vsyakij svyato chtit ona konec. - for the people revere every death.


I navstrechu klanyalis', krestili - And those who met the procession bowed their
Mnogodumnyj, mnogotrudnyj lob. - heads, and crossed themselves
A druz'ya i blizkie pylili - Heavy with thought and work,
Na ikonu, na neyo, na grob... - while the friends and relatives scattered dust on the icon, on her, on the coffin...


I s kakoyu beskonechnoj grust'yu - And with what infinite sadness
(Ne o nyom - Bog vest' o kom?) - she was accepting the word of condolence
Prinyala ona slova sochuvstvij - and the casual wreaths, one after another,
I venok sluchajnyj za venkom... - though she was grieving not for him


EHtih fraz izbityh povtoren'ya, - (God knows for whom she was grieving)
Nikomu ne nuzhnye slova - These repeated, standard phrases,
Vozvela ona v venec tvoren'ya, - these words which nobody needs -
V tajnuyu ulybku bozhestva... - she has transformed them to the acme of into a secret divine smile...


Slovno zdes', gde peli i kadili, - As if there, where people were singing and burning incense,
Gde i smert' ne mozhet byt' tiha, - where even death cannot be silent
Ubralas' ona fatoj ot pyli - she was waiting for another bridegroom,
I zhdala Inogo ZHeniha... - dressed in a bridal veil against the dust


4. Golos Iz Hora (A Voice from the Chorus) 1910-1914

Kak chasto plachem – vy i ya – How often do we weep, you and I,
Nad zhalkoj zhizniyu svoej! - over our wretched lives!
O, esli b znali vy, druz'ya, - Oh, my friends, if you only knew,
Holod i mrak gryadushchih dnej! - the cold darkness to come!


Teper' ty miloj ruku zhmyosh', - Today you press your beloved's hand,
Igraesh' s neyu, shutya, - you make merry with her,
I plachesh' ty, zametiv lozh', - you weep only for a lie,
Ili v ruke lyubimoj nozh, - or else for a knife in her hand,
Ditya, ditya! - Poor child, poor child!


Lzhi i kovarstvu mery net, - Lies and perfidies are infinite,
A smert' – daleka. - and death is distant...
Vsyo budet chernee strashnyj svet, - The fearful world will grow yet darker,
I vsyo bezumnej vihr' planet - the whirl of the planets will grow yet wilder,
Eshchyo veka, veka! - and this will last for an age...


I vek poslednij, uzhasnej vsekh, - And both you and I will see the last age,
Uvidim i vy i ya. - the most fearful age.
Vsyo nebo skroet gnusnyj grekh, - The heavens will be clouded by repulsive sin,
Na vsekh ustah zastynet smekh, - laughter will freeze on all lips,
Toska nebytiya... - everyone will yearn for annihilation


Vesny, ditya, ty budesh' zhdat' – Oh child, you will wait for spring,
Vesna obmanet. - but spring will deceive you;
Ty budesh' solnce na nebo zvat' – you will call for the sun to rise,
Solnce ne vstanet. - but the sun will not rise.


I krik (tvoj),  kogda ty nachnyosh' krichat', - and when you start crying, your cry will
Kak kamen', kanet... - disappear in the depths, like a stone...
Bud'te zh dovol'ny zhizn'yu svoej, - So, children, be content with your lives
Tishe vody, nizhe travy! - more silent than water, lower than grass!
O, esli b znali, deti, vy, - If only you knew
Holod i mrak gryadushchih dnej! - the cold and darkness of the days to come


5. Ya Prigvozhdyon K Traktirnoj Stojke (I am nailed to the tavern counter) 1908

YA prigvozhdyon k traktirnoj stojke - I am nailed to a tavern counter
YA p'yan davno. Mne vsyo – ravno. - I have been drunk for a long time, I am indifferent to everything.
Von schastie moyo – na trojke - My happiness is there, on a troika,
V srebristyj dym uneseno... - Taken away into a silver haze...


Letit na trojke, potonulo - It flies on the troika, it vanishes
V snegu vremen, v dali vekov... - in snows of time, in centuries...
I tol'ko dushu zahlestnulo - only the soul is overflowing
Srebristoj mgloj iz-pod podkov... - with the silver haze from under the horseshoes...


V gluhuyu temen' iskry mechet, - The sparks fly in the blind darkness
Ot iskr vsyu noch', vsyu noch' svetlo... - because of them, it is light all night.
Bubenchik pod dugoj lepechet - The sleighbells murmur over the shaft-bow
O tom, chto schastie proshlo... - of the happiness now gone...


I tol'ko sbruya zolotaya - And only the golden harness
Vsyu noch' vidna... Vsyu noch' slyshna... - is seen all night, is heard all night.
A ty, dusha... dusha gluhaya... - and you, my soul, my blind soul,
P'yanym p'yana... p'yanym p'yana... - you're drunk, you're dead drunk.


6. Veter Prinyos Iz Dalyoka (The breeze has brought from far away)1901

Veter prinyos izdalyoka - The breeze has brought from far away
Pesni vesennej namyok, - a motif of spring's song;
Gde-to svetlo i gluboko - somewhere, bright and deep,
Neba otkrylsya klochok. - a piece of heaven has been revealed.


V ehtoj bezdonnoj lazuri, - In that fathomless blue sky,
V sumerkah blizkoj vesny - at the dawn of the approaching spring,
Plakali zimnie buri, - the winter storms were weeping,
Reyali zvyozdnye sny. - the starry dreams were floating.


Robko, temno i gluboko - My strings were weeping,
Plakali struny moi. - timidly, darkly and deeply;
Veter prinyos izdalyoka - the breeze has brought from far away
Zvuchnye pesni tvoi. - the ringing motif of your song.


7. Petersburgskaya Pesenka (Petersburg Song) 1906

Hozhu, brozhu ponuryj, - I'm wandering, depressed,
Odin v svoej nore. - in my lonely lair;
Pridyot sharmanshchik hmuryj, - the dismal organ grinder
Zaplachet na dvore... - will come and lament outside


O toj svobodnoj dole, - about the free life
CHto mne ne suzhdena, - which I will never share,
O tom, chto veter v pole, - about the steppe wind
A na dvore – vesna. - about the new-blown spring.


A mne – kakoj delo? - Yet what does it matter?
Brozhu odin, zabyt. - I wander alone and lost.
I svechka dogorela, - The candle has burnt down,
I mayatnik stuchit. - and the pendulum ticks.


Odna, odna nadezhda - My one and only hope
Von tam, v eyo okne. - is there, at her window,
Svetla eyo odezhda, - she whose clothes are bright
Ona pridyot ko mne. - will come and visit me.


Lico moyo belee, - My face is paler
CHem belaya stena... - than a white wall...
Opyat', opyat' srobeyu, - Yet again I will fee shy
Kogda pridyot ona... - when she comes...


Zachem ona prihodit - Why does she come
So mnoyu govorit'? - to talk to me?
Zachem v iglu provodit - Why does she pass through the needle'seye
Vesyolen'kuyu nit'? - that merry thread?


Zachem ona ronyaet - Why does she shed
Vesyolye slova? - those merry words?
Zachem lico sklonyaet - Why does she bow her head
I pryachet v kruzheva? - and hide her face in the laces?


Ved' nechego boyat'sya - There is nothing to fear
I nechego teryat'... - and nothing to lose...
No nado li skazat'sya? - Must I confess my feelings?
No mozhno li skazat'? - May I say all?


I chto ej molvit' - nezhnoj? - But what can I tell this tender creature?
CHto serdce rascvelo? - That my heart is in bloom?
CHto veter veet snezhnyj? - That the wind brings snowflakes?
CHto v komnate svetlo? - That my room is full of light?


8. Rozhdyonnye V Goda Gluhie (Those born in obscure years) 1914

Rozhdyonnye v goda gluhie - Those born in obscure years
Puti ne pomnyat svoego. - do not remember their way,
My – deti strashnyh let Rossii – - and we, children of Russia's dreadful years
Zabyt' ne v silah nichego. - can forget nothing.


Ispepelyayushchie gody! - Oh, years which have reduced us to ashes!
Bezum'ya l' v vas, nadezhdy l' vest'? - Have you brought madness or a ray of hope?
Ot dnej vojny, ot dnej svobody – - In the days of war and freedom
Krovavyj otsvet v licah est'. - a blood-red shimmer appeared on our faces.


Est' nemota – to gul nabata - We have grown dumb; the alarm bell
Zastavil zagradit' usta. - has forced us to close our lips.
V serdcah, vostorzhennyh kogda-to, - In hearts, once full of eagerness,
Est' rokovaya pustota. - now there is a fateful void...


I pust' nad nashim smertnym lozhem - And let the cawing ravens fly up
Vzov'yotsya s krikom voron'yo, – above our death-bed -
Te, kto dostojnej, Bozhe, Bozhe,
- may those more worthy, God, oh God,
Da uzryat carstvie tvoyo! - behold Thy Kingdom!


9. Bogomater' V Gorode (The Virgin in the City) 1905

Ty prohodish' bez ulybki, - You are passing by without a smile,
Opustivshaya resnicy, - your eyes are cast down,
I vo mrake nad soborom - and in the darkness above the Cathedral
Zolotyatsya kupola. - the golden domes are shining.


Kak lico tvoyo pohozhe - Your face resembles so vividly
Na vechernih bogorodic, - the evening Virgins,
Opuskayushchih resnicy, - who cast down their eyes,
Propadayushchih vo mgle... - who disappear in the darkness...


No s toboj idyot kudryavyj - But there is a little boy with you,
Krotkij mal'chik v beloj shapke, - a curly-haired, gentle boy, wearing a white cap.
Ty vedyosh' ego za ruchku, - You are leading him by the hand,
Ne dayosh' emu upast'. - you do not allow him to fall.


YA stoyu v teni portala, - I am in the shade of the portal,
Tam, gde duet rezkij veter, - where the sharp wind blows,
Zastilayushchij slezami - and my strained eyes
Napryazhyonnye glaza. - are clouded with tears.


YA hochu vnezapno vyjti - I would like to spring up before your eyes
I voskliknut': «Bogomater'! - and to exclaim "Oh, Virgin!
Dlya chego v moj chyornyj gorod - Why have you brought the Infant
Ty Mladenca privela?» - to my black city?"


No yazyk bessilen kriknut'. - But my tongue is powerless to shout;
Ty prohodish'. Za toboyu - you are passing by, and, behind you,
Nad svyashchennymi sledami - above the blessed footprints,
Pochivaet sinij mrak. - the blue darkness slumbers.


I smotryu ya, vspominaya, - And I remain, watching, remembering
Kak opushcheny resnicy, - your downcast eyes,
Kak tvoj mal'chik v beloj shapke - and how your little boy with a white cap
Ulybnulsya na tebya. - smiled at you.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________


Sviridov worked on the vocal poem Petersburg for some twenty years. He completed it in 1995, especially for Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Mikhail Arkadiev. The work comprises nine short poems by Alexander Blok, which date from the period January 1901 to September 1914. Blok was one of the poets from the Silver Age of Russian history that saw an incredible cultural Renaissance in all the arts, poetry, music, painting, architecture, philosophy and patronage of the arts. This was all swept away by the War and the Revolution – we grew a hundred years older in an hour. The poetry of Blok, one of the greatest of Russian poets, was full of Cassandra-like premonitions of catastrophe.

 

The title chosen by Sviridov for his cycle alludes to the romantic and post-romantic myth of St Petersburg: the city of the Bronze Horseman, the Queen of Spades, the city of the magnificent architecture, the city of the Neva and the white nights. The title Petersburg also echoes the famous novel by Andrey Bely of the same name. Sviridov was a masterful composer, who infused his songs with all the lyricism and emotional impact of Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, while maintaining a distinctly modern voice. He had an almost Schubertian gift for matching his simple melodic ideas to the poems he chose. In the hands of two great Russian performers the effect is devastating.

 

The opening song The Weathercock acts as a prologue. It introduces the idea of continually flowing Time, of infinite and misty, dangerously captivating Space. The music, pervaded with an unceasing pulse, gives the little tin cockerel the enchanted life the poem calls for, launched into the empyrean by the piano’s wonderful postlude.

 

The Golden Oar introduces the image of the nameless Beloved. This is a variation on Blok’s famous mystical Stranger, who haunted his poems. The motifs of the white dress and funeral music, too, play a substantial part: the theme of the bride is hinted at almost unnoticeably, strangely related to the theme of death. Sviridov himself had youthful recollections of strolling on the misty shores of the Gulf of Finland where Blok would meet his Beloved.

 

The symbolism of The Golden Oar is stretched even further in the third song’s funeral procession. In the coffin is Blok himself, the fashionable but blasphemous man of letters, the black-veiled Bride is both the Beloved Stranger and the bride of another bridegroom, Christ himself. The symbolism here embraces both Mary Magdalene and Our Lady herself, who is to reappear with her child in The Virgin in the City.

 

A Voice from the Chorus is in the same devastating vein as Gamayun the Prophesying Bird that Shostakovich set in his Seven Poems by Alexander Blok – a cry of fear and horror at the terrifying times to come. This poem was completed in 1914. I am nailed to the Tavern Counter is the traditional Russian solution to loss of happiness – My happiness is there on a troika, taken away into a silver haze. But the poems final words sound out as a cry of human solitude in the face of death.

 

The Breeze Has Brought From Far Away is, except for The Weathercock, the only part of the cycle written in a major key. It is the cycle's bright intermezzo and at the same time, a slow introduction to the Petersburg Song. Is it only in Russia that the advent of Spring, somewhere bright and deep, is greeted with a funereal Adagio? Nonetheless the major mode and the rhythmic ostinato hail the opening of heaven in the St Petersburg sky and associates this song with the little tin cockerel. The Petersburg Song, the only lively one in the cycle, revives the powerful image of the nameless Beloved as a sign of hope in the midst of solitude and despair. What can I tell this tender creature? That my heart is in bloom?

 

Born in the Years of Trouble is one of Blok’s most famous poems. Time stops for these words. In hearts once full of eagerness, now there is a fateful void - another poem from 1914 that asks if the years have brought madness or a ray of hope. The Virgin in the City pulls all these strands together – the nameless Beloved, Stranger, Bride embodied in the lonely image of the Virgin walking through the snow in my black city with the Child holding her hand and smiling at her.