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Sunday, March 1, 2009

49 Russian composers in 39 seconds

In January of 1941, the musical Lady in the Dark by Kurt Weill (music) and Ira Gershwin (lyrics) opened on Broadway's Alvin Theatre for a run of more than a year and 467 performances. It's in an interesting form: except for the final song, all the music in the play is heard in three extended dream sequences (the Glamour Dream, the Wedding Dream, and the Circus Dream). Each of the psychoanalytic studies stand as micro-operas within the overall work.

Entertainer Danny Kaye made his career in this musical playing the role of fashion photographer Russell Paxton in this musical. His patter song "Tschaikovsky (and other Russians)" was a showstopping success. Kaye dashes through the names of 49 Russian composers in just 39 seconds in the 1941 78 rpm cast recording directed by Maurice Abravanel released on Columbia...

Danny Kaye (David Daniel Kaminsky), was born in 1913 in Brooklyn NY the son of an immigrant Russian tailor. He dropped out of school at age 13, but found work in the “Borsht Belt” and in vaudeville shows. He studied music seriously, including music composition, and once conducted the NY Philharmonic.

How many "other Russians" can you hear named in the song? Borodin, Malichevsky, Rubinstein, Arensky, Gretchnaninoff, Kvoschinsky, Rachmaninoff, Glazunov, Stravinsky, Orijifuev, Prokofiev, Shostakovich...

Here is a contemporary performance by Servio Tulio (voice) and Glauco Baptista (piano), recorded Live at Radio MEC FM - Rio de Janeiro: