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The Russian State Symphony Cinema Orchestra

“The most simple and mysterious miracle sent to us by God is music”.

On December 28th,1895, a new muse came into the world of people. It was cinematography. It instantly won the hearts of humans. However it became clear soon that this young lady with all her beauty and charm would not be alone for long. And in several months her eldest sister, music, appeared by her side. At first cinematography was accompanied by a tap-pianist. No, it was not a tipsy stubbly fellow from a variety show. He was a superb musician and composer who had to possess a unique skillfulness in composing and improvisation. Many people went to the concerts of unforgettable Isabella Yureva not only to listen to their favorite singer but also to listen to her brilliant pianist Simon Kagan who was one of the most famous tap-pianists in the 20 and 30s. Later small bands — trios and quartets — started performing in the movie theaters and then…

November 1924. In the Moscow movie theater “Arc” on Tverskaya Street a 36-year-old conductor, David Block, waved his baton and a symphonic orchestra sounded for the first time in a movie theater. And that’s the way Big Cinema-music was born. That’s the way Cinematographic Orchestra was born which has carried its name, unique work, honor of serving to music, industriousness, and professionalism in its high mission for 85 years.

The 20s. The orchestral musicians are already playing in several Moscow movie theaters. Crowds flock to movie theaters to “see and to listen”. The orchestra players had to know a great deal of music from Haydn to Strauss and Kalman. They had to perform big pieces from plays of very different genres. It was not enough just to play well, superbly read the notes, instantly react to the conductor’s signs, instantly switch from one work to another, and accurately flip through 17 pages of music with a swiftness of a cat. It was a cinematographic orchestra then… and now.

The 30s were remarkable for the birth of cinematographic sound. The orchestral work changed considerably. It no longer evoked the stuffy dimness of the movie theater but a “sound studio”. Instead these new words sounded very foreign. Remember the subtitles to the epoch picture called “A Ticket to Life”. “The sound to this picture was recorded according to the professor Shorin’s system”. It was the musicians’ first work in a totally different environment. They could not make mistakes. The music had to be recorded on the first try. All musicians were tense and focused. They had to perform their best. The orchestra was headed by many famous conductors including D. Block, A. Gauk, D. Nebolsin, N. Anosov, A. Pazovsky. That was the young cinematographic orchestra. A new time arrives. New composers like Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Pushkov, Listov, Krukov write new music specifically for the movies. Many fine melodies of that time were heard thanks to cinematographic music. And almost every time they found their audience through the movie orchestra. That was the time when musical comedy was born. The sparkling music of Isaac Dunaevsky had elements of jazz, swing, step, offbeat, and other components unusual for the times. By 1938 a constant body of musicians who recorded music for the movies was formed. That very year Sergey Prokofiev records music for the S. Ezenshtain’s epic picture “Alexander Nevsky”. It was a great example of how cinematographic music could become a big event in the music culture as a whole.

During the war times most musicians were evacuated to Middle Asia. Right there in Tashkent’s and Alma-Ata’s studios the first unforgettable melodies and songs by N. Bogoslovsky, K. Listov, and M. Blanter to the war movies of that time were born. The musicians’ body was formed not only out of movie musicians then. There were also performers from the State Symphonic Orchestra of the USSR, the Bolshoi theater, and musicians from Leningrad. In 1944 the first episode of S. Ezenshtain’s movie “Ivan the Terrible” with the music by S. Prokofiev comes out. It became a masterpiece of Russian symphony.

In the fall of the same year the Orchestra solemnly celebrated its 20th anniversary on the governmental level. It was a token of high appraisal of the musicians’ work during the harsh war times and of their two decades of work as a whole.

During the postwar years, in the 50s and in the beginning of the 60s Soviet cinematography did not release many movies. However, the work of the Orchestra of the Chief Department of Movie Making, as it was called then, did not go unnoticed. The release of every picture became a big occasion. The orchestra “gave a ticket to life” to many songs, which were sung by the whole nation: songs by T.Hrennikov, B.Mokrousov, M.Blanter, N.Bogoslovsky. During the same period the orchestra began to perform together with the Philarmonic Orchestra playing classical music, with the stars of Russian culture: D.Oystrah, M.Rostropovich, E.Gilels, I.Kozlovsky, G.Vishnevskaya. That became a sign of collaboration of high professionalism, maturity
and popularity.

The 60s and the 70s. Its full name became the State Symphonic Cinematographic Orchestra of the USSR. It was one of the most respectable and authoritative music orchestras in the country. It’s soloists, G.Kemlin, A.Ferkelman, U.Lukyanov, U.Gushanskaya, I.Mozgovenko, M.Zenuk, were well known and appreciated in the musical world. Hundreds of movies, documentaries, cartoons, TV shows and plays were released every year in the USSR. The orchestra worked a 12 hour day. They were the only orchestra that could handle such a work load so professionally and superbly.

The country’s biggest composers like D.Kabalevsky, G.Sviridov, R.Shchedrin, A.Eshpay, A.Schnittke, M.Vainberg worked only with them. They also worked with very experienced conductors of music cinematography like A.Roytman, G.Gamburg, V.Vasilev, D.Shtilman. They also work with E.Khachaturyan, G.Dugashev, V.Smirnov, M.Nersesyan, Y.Nikolayevsky, K.Krimets, A.Petuhov, N.Sokolov, U.Serebryakov, V.Ponkin, E.Svetlanov, N.Gollovanov, G.Rozhdestvensky, V&Dudarova, M.Ermler, U.Silantyev.

Cinematographic music became an independent branch of musical culture in the country. The cinematographic orchestra successfully and often performed with a classical and modern repertoire. They invariably included in its program the most famous and loved songs from Soviet and foreign movies.

The 1970s. Igor Talankin creates a large scale musical picture “Tchaikovsky”. The chief musical “ideologist” and the director of the project was a famous American conductor and composer Dmitriy Tyemkin, a creative genius. Many musical episodes were recorded with the Bolshoy Theater Orchestra, Moscow Philharmonic Society, and other venerable groups. Nevertheless, the major part of specially written Tchaikovsky’s score was performed and recorded by the cinematographic orchestra.

D. Tyemkin said then: ”Other orchestras play on their own, but yours works together with us. And that’s exactly what we need!”

The 80’s… The Orchestra enjoys wonderful encounters with a constellation of splendid talented composers, including Mikhail Meyerovich, Veniamin Basner, Edouard Kolmanovskiy, Yuri Levitin, Nikolai Sidelnikov, Mark Fradkin, Vladimir Shainsky, Mikhail Ziv, Nikolai Karetnikov, Vadim Bibergan, Mark Minkov, Bogdan Trotsiuk, Alexander Flyarkovsky, Leonid Afanasiev, Georgy Garanian, Vitaly Geviksman, Sofia Gubaidulina, Edison Denisov, Vladimir Dashkevitch, Eugeny Doga, Giya Kancheli, Maxim Dunaevsky, Alexander Zhurbin, Alexander Zatsepin, Vladimir Kazenin, Shandor Kallosh, Vladimir Komarov, Yuri Kazparov, Eugeny Krylatov, Victor Lebedev, Roman Ledenyov, Vladimir Martynov, Kirill Molchanov, Alexandra Pakhmutova, Eugeny Ptichkin, Alexey Rybnikov, Yuri Saulsky, Mikael Tariverdiev, Yan Frenchel, Oscar Feltsman, Boris Tchaikovsky, Alexander Tchaikovsky, Enri Lolashvili, Alexander Pantykin, and Alexei Shelygin.

The orchestra’s conductors and soloists are acknowledged professional musicians not only in the USSR. They write music to French, German, Swedish, and many other foreign films. Foreign directors, composers, and producers invariably highly appreciated the work of the cinematographic orchestra. Its veterans, G.Grjaznov, A.Isplatovsky, E.Baskakov, I.Nazaruk, T.Stepanova, G.Smirnova, N.Vassilevskaja, L.Solenkova, gave dozens of years to their work and will give it many more years if their health and skills would allow them. We reverently bow to them for that!

Year 1987. They are recording music for one of the first Soviet shows “A Visit to a Minotaur” about an intricately woven story about the life of a Stradivarius violin. The director and the conductor insisted that the movie should perform the music using an original violin of the Great Master. And here it was carried into the studio in a black case accompanied by guards. The soloist of the orchestra is breathlessly taking the priceless creation of the great Cremonian, the 300 year old wood is softly lying on the musician’s shoulder; he raises his bow… and a sound is born. Many musicians feel that in that moment they encounter God. Yes, God has come. In a common movie studio. A Great Miracle has come, Great Music!

During the difficult 90s, Russian cinematography began to fade, many studios closed, when movie directors had to make commercials for modern fashions and alcoholic beverages, some composers passed away not being able to stand a half-starved existence. Oh, those were the hard times of the cinematographic orchestra! The more the members of the orchestra should be proud and confident in its dignity because it lived through those hard times, preserving its work, its professionalism, respect for its long history, enthusiasm and longing for real, valuable, and invariably professional work which we all need. Just as in the past its main conductor and its director, the National Artist of Russia, Sergey Skripka, is standing behind the orchestra’s stand, highly focused and demanding. And as many years ago all musicians are highly focused and their instruments are tuned. In the second half of the 20th century Russian screen music ceased to be only but an application to its junior brother, cinematography, by making a rightful and confident transformation into an independent and prominent element of the music culture which enjoyed the widest popularity and became accessible to and loved by all. In 2006, the Orchestra’s Artistic Director Sergey Skripka approached the Moscow Philharmonic with a concept of a new subscription concert series, ‘Screen Music Live’, which could offer the audience a chance to hear authentic performance of the tunes that had been in the hearts of many generations to have long become part of people’s lives.

Hundreds of listeners filled up the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall. They rejoiced at the opportunity to experience live contact with the legendary tunes that weaved years and generations together while maintaining their color and splendor as the fruit of a live human soul. Even now, in the times of the shamelessly sunken level of mass music culture, the Orchestra of Cinematography stays true to the performing traditions and remains the only genuine vehicle of this beloved genre. For years, each spring people have lined up in front of the ticket office of the Philharmonic to buy seasonal tickets to this unique subscription series. Each concert enjoys full audience. The concerts engage Moscow’s best cinema actors and musicians, like Georgy Garanian, Anna Buturlina, Leonid Serebrennikov, Pavel Smeyan, Dmitry Pevtsov, Alexander Mikhailov, Sergey Stepanchenko, Gennady Trofimov, Ilya Trofimov, Yulia Rutberg, Vladimir Kachan, Mikhail Boyarsky, Tamara Gverdtsiteli, Vyacheslav Voinarovsky, Alexey Nabiulin, Gennady Kamenny, Dmitry Kharatian, A.Bolshova, C.Aglinz. Stage director — T.Yakzhina. The Orchestra enjoys performing music by Russia’s greatest cinema composers, like Isaac Dunaevsky, Nikita Bogoslovsky, Isaac Schwartz, Andrey Eshpai, Andrey Petrov, Gennady Gladkov, Edouard Artemiev. The tunes sound the same fresh, colorful, young and captivating way they did years ago.

The Orchestra of the Russian Cinematography performs its new programs in the biggest concert halls, plays with the best pianists, singers, violinists, release numerous CDs. And as before many European and American cinematographers finish their work with the orchestra saying: “Yes, that’s superb!” Different, colorful and difficult years fly by like the wind. New films are born. Some of them are good, some are not. Shows flow one after another. Usually they are not that good. New technologies are born. The carousel of composers, synthesizers, samplers, digital editing powerfully whirls. However, more and more often we can see the violinist’s thin fingers holding the neck of the great Stradivarius violin though the colorful musical net of the XXI century. A sound is born, then another… then more and more join it. The orchestra is performing! The Russian State Symphony Cinema Orchestra!