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A musical dynasty

A team of researchers has gathered once-lost musical compositions written by members of the Romanov family.

Published: December 21, 2011 (Issue # 1688)



  • The Cappella will perform the program at private concerts in 2012.
    Photo: ALINA USMANOVA

  • The concert features 20 pieces.
    Photo: ALINA USMANOVA

The concert held at Tavrichesky Palace on Dec. 10 could probably have claimed a Guinness book entry: It took at least 15 years to put together. The cause was well worth the lengthy preparations. The performance, entitled The Imperial Musical Collection, showcased 20 long-lost musical works composed exclusively by members of the Romanov family, including Tsar Alexander II and Prince Konstantin Romanov.

These works had last been played almost one and a half centuries ago and then were lost in the chaos of the Bolshevik Revolution. Vyacheslav Mozardo, president of the Moscow-based Slava international cultural center, sought to revive Russias imperial musical legacy. Along with his team of researchers, Mozardo spent more than a decade going through thousands of files in the Romanov family archives as well as libraries far beyond Russia, from Switzerland to Thailand.

The idea of searching for music written by the Romanovs originally came to producer Bella Abaeva, the driving force behind the project, when she was contemplating her relationship with her own children.

I was thinking what sort of people I want them to be inspired by, Abaeva remembers. It happens all too often that young people today forget that while becoming successful in life it is important to keep your heart and soul alive and in this respect the Romanovs represent the finest example of members of the elite who were emotionally exuberant and generous.

Abaeva then joined forces with the Slava Center, and the research began. Sometimes we would find a fragment of a letter containing a musical score in an archive in one country, and it would take many months to find the rest of the document thousands of miles away in a totally different library, she said.

Most members of royal families in countries where they have existed or still exist are involved in some sort of artistic activity, from poetry to painting, but hardly ever composition, and in this respect the Romanov family stands out.

The Romanovs adored composing romances or short classical music opuses as presents for their loved ones, Abaeva said. Indeed, we have made it all very private in the sense that while presenting the music, we withhold any personal dedications. We respect the privacy of the authors.

Importantly, the project gives precious insight into the personalities of the Romanovs, showing them not only as members of the royal family, but as human beings.

The music presented at the concert is terra incognita not only for general classical music audiences, but even for musicologists whose area of expertise is 19th-century Russian music.

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Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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