Remembering the Alexandrov Ensemble

Tuesday, January 03, 2017 - 03:00 PM

The Alexandrov Ensemble in Concert at Bielsko-Biala The Alexandrov Ensemble in Concert at Bielsko-Biala (Piotr Bieniecki /

This past Christmas Day, the world woke up to the devastating news of the Russian Tupelev Tu-154 airline crash. Of the 92 people who perished in the aviation disaster, which included government officials and journalists, 64 were members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, also known as the Red Army Choir. Among the fatalities was the ensemble's director, Lieutenant General Valery Khalilov.

The Alexandrov Ensemble — not to be confused with the MVD ensemble, which also bears the designation "Red Army Choir" — was founded in 1928 by composer Alexander Alexandrov and was steeped in the Russian cultural conversation from the very beginning. In the waning years of World War II, Alexandrov would enter into a state-sponsored competition that sought to select a new national anthem for post-war Russia. Alexandrov’s entry, which beat out compositions from luminous contemporaries including Prokofiev, Khachaturian and Shostakovich, was adopted as the official anthem of the Soviet Union in 1945. Since 2000, the anthem (with revised lyrics) has been used as the official national anthem of the Russian Federation.

The ensemble’s embrace of the classical repertoire, folk traditions and often unique instrumentation reveal a distinctly Russian flavor.Though their sound is often serious and stately, many selections — such as its arrangements of Kalinka and various Christmas songs — are inviting and have made fans of listeners all over the world. 

The accident is no doubt a setback for the nearly 90-year-old ensemble, but state officials are determined to rebuild the beloved artistic institution under new direction.


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Comments [8]

Piotr Kajstura from Kraków, Poland

A devastating loss. Deepest condolences to their families. Thank you WQXR for featuring it.

Jan. 08 2017 11:29 PM
Nick from Tampa

As tragic as it was, keep in mind, the purpose of this flight was to entertain Russian troops in Syria, there to support a vile dictator. Perhaps, if the Russians were not there, this flight would never have occurred. Irony!

Jan. 08 2017 11:36 AM
Elana from New York, NY

Beyond heartbreaking! Great men, culture. Deepest condolences to all. Thank u WQXR.

Jan. 07 2017 12:40 PM
Les from Miami, Florida

This is without doubt a tragedy and loss of the first order for all concerned, to be sure, be they members of the Chorus or not. Just for the record --- no pun intended --- there was an album of 4 10-inch 78's recorded by the Red Army Chorus conducted by A. Alexandrov that was on the Keynote Records label, Album Number 103, dating from 1939 whose songs include "From Border to Border", "If Tomorrow Brings War", "The Young Birch Tree", "Cossack Song", "Snowstorm", "Song of the Tachanka", "Meadowland", Along the Vales and Hills". The labels say "Originals made in U.S.S.R., 1939, mfd. (manufactured) and dist. (distributed) by Keynote Recordings, Inc." Here's hoping the new constituency will rise like the Phoenix.

Jan. 04 2017 07:56 AM
Gev from The Jersey Shore

Horrible. But please note that the soloist in the video of "Kalinka" is still very much alive. Vadim Ananiev was not on the plane. His wife wanted him to stay home to help her with their new baby. In a news interview given outside his home, the poor fellow was positively bewildered by not only the accident, but by what turned out to be a life-saving decision to stay home with his family.

Jan. 04 2017 06:06 AM
sam from Rockland cnty NY

Want you to be perfect. It's TUpolev.

Jan. 04 2017 04:08 AM
Alan from New York City

A moving tribute to the Alexandrov ensemble:

Jan. 03 2017 11:16 PM
Nancy Wight from New York

The Balalaika and Domra Association of America (BDAA) is deeply grieved at the loss of the 62 members of the great Alexandrov Ensemble.

We send all our condolences to their families and friends.

Nancy Wight
Board Member Emeritus

Jan. 03 2017 05:34 PM

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