Where Are You, My Brothers?
#24 WHERE ARE YOU, MY BROTHERS? – Songs of the War Years
Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone
Constantine Orbelian, conductor
Moscow Chamber Orchestra
Style of Five traditional Russian ensemble
Spiritual Revival Choir of Moscow
Arrangements by Evgeny Stetsyuk
Somewhere Far Away (Gde-to Daleko – Pesnya o Dalekoy Rodine: Rozhdestvensky, Tariverdiev • Dark is the Night (Tiomnaia Noch): Agatov, Bogoslovsky • Unexpected Waltz (Slutchaynyy Val’s): Dolmatovsky, Fradkin • Where are You, My Brothers? (Gde Zhe Vy Teper’, Druz’ya-Odnopolchane); Fatianov, Soloviev-Sedoi • On a Nameless Hill (Na Bezymiannoy Vysote); Matusovsky, Basner • The Roads (Dorogi); Oshanin, Novikov • Soldiers are Coming (Vot Soldaty Idut); Lvovsky, Molchanov • Cranes (Zhuravli); Gamzatov, Frenkel • In the Trenches (V Zemlianke); Surkov, Listov • The Sacred Stone (Zavetnyy Kamen); Zharov, Matusovsky • Katyusha (Katyusha); Isakovsky, Blanter • Cossacks in Berlin (Kazaki v Berline); Solodar, Pokrass • My Moscow (Moia Moskva; Agranian, Dunayevsky • The Road to the Front (Dorozhka Frontovaia (Pesenka Frontovogo Shofiora)); Laskin, Mokrousov • The Hills of Manchuria (Na Sopkakh Mandzhurii); Mashistov, Shatrov • The Lonely Accordion (Odinokaia Garmon); Isakovsky, Mokrousov • The Last Battle (Posledniy Boi) Nozhkin
“Where Are You, My Brothers” brings Dmitri Hvorstovsky’s unique expression of “Russian Soul” to enduring 20th Century popular gems. This album of Russian songs especially arranged for Dmitri, and its sequel, “Moscow Nights,” have created a new awareness of this beautiful repertoire. These are songs with poetic texts, made “classic” by the exquisite treatment Dmitri and Constantine give the new arrangements.
American Record Guide said it very well when “Where Are You…” first appeared: “incredibly moving… Hvorostovsky’s dark, lyrical, burnished baritone treats this material as if it were among the great Russian art songs… and Orbelian…gets a good deal of soul out of them… I was stirred by these songs, and hope Hvorostovsky and assisting forces are planning a follow-up.”
Yes, we did a follow-up! (Moscow Nights, DE 3339) “Where Are You…” and its sequel are a labor of love for Dmitri, who grew up in Siberia hearing his father sing these songs, and for Constantine, who grew up in San Francisco hearing his family and other Russian émigrés sing the same songs around the piano.
To describe the content of “Where Are You…” one must go back to World War Two, or “The Great Patriotic War,” as the Russians call it. For four long years the Russians fought a brutal German invasion to a standstill and finally turned it back. By the time it was over, millions of soldiers and ordinary people had been killed, countless families separated, vast areas of Russia left in ruins and virtually an entire generation lost. A new genre of song was born, destined to encourage, unify, console and comfort a beleaguered people. These memorable Russian wartime songs, many with heartbreakingly beautiful melodies and poetic texts, are poignant, mournful, defiant, angry and romantic. Even today most Russians know these songs, words and music, and can sing along — and weep along — with them. Presented by great artists in elegant arrangements such as one hears on this CD, these songs can be as moving to an international audience as serious art songs or dramatic opera arias.
“I didn’t grow up knowing these songs, as Dmitri, Constantine and all of the other performers did,” Delos founder Amelia Haygood wrote, “but I grew up knowing the sentiments expressed so poignantly, and I know that handkerchiefs will be appropriate gear when listening to this recording. At the time we were recording this album we had no idea how many people around the world would soon be experiencing some of the feelings expressed in these songs.”
The composers and lyricists, although not well known in the west, are celebrities in Russia, and several had illustrious careers in cinema, radio and early TV. Most of the songs stem from the tragic period of 1941–1945. Carried by unforgettable melodies, the lyrics run the gamut from battlefield prayers, pleas for remembrance after death, defiance of the enemy, longings for peace, and pride in the homeland, to declarations of love for absent companions.
“In the short nights of May,
With the thunderous battles over,
Where are you, my brothers,
My battle comrades?
Where are you…”
Some, such as “Cranes,” in which departed soldiers’ spirits are transformed into soaring white cranes, reach poetic heights:
“It seems to me sometimes that soldiers
Who didn’t come home from the blood-soaked battlefields
Weren’t laid to rest in the earth,
But turned into white cranes…
That ever since that time long ago
They have been flying, calling;
Maybe that’s why we often, and sadly,
Fall silent, staring into the sky?
“The tired flock flies and flies up in the sky,
It flies in the fog, as the day dies,
And in this formation there is a space;
Maybe it is a place for me.
The day will come when I will also drift
With the cranes’ flock in the same blue-gray haze,
Calling from the sky, in the birds’ language
The names of you whom I’ve left on earth.”
In the booklet notes, Russian-American journalist Maya Pritsker writes:
“The best of the Songs from the War Years captured with great precision and poetic insight the prevailing mood of that tragic time. They corresponded with people’s patriotic feelings and answered their need for consolation, encouragement and spiritual support. They reflected a wide range of emotions experienced by millions during the war – grief and hope, pain and hatred for the enemy, love and longing, sweet memories and dreams of a happy, peaceful life. … They were great expressions of a human soul’s life under the most terrible circumstances. Because of their high artistic qualities, these songs never lost their popularity, and to this day are in great demand by audiences of all generations.”
Since this recording was released, Dmitri and Constantine have toured music capitals worldwide with these songs, often in programs that are partly opera arias and partly Russian Songs. They have performed this program on VE Day, an important ann
iversary in Russia, often with television coverage to an audience of some hundred million people. They have performed it in Red Square and the Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Palace Square in St. Petersburg, and have taken it on tour honoring the “Hero Cities” of Russia. Constantine wrote fascinating letters back to us from the 2005 “Hero Cities” tour, which can be viewed on our website (The tour notes from the “Hero Cities tour” Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). And here is a link to an insightful article written by Boris Shapiro-Tulin for the tours, translated by Levon Hakopian.