The Cliff: History

November 27 2009   20 Commented

The Cliff song

This song is about the fate of the 17th century Russian rebel, Stepan Razin. The lyrics were written in 1864 by novelist Alexander Alexandrovich Navrotsky who was also a member of Narodnaya Volya (Russian: Народная Воля), a secret revolutionary organization perhaps best known for assassinating Tsar Alexander II on March 13, 1881. The song was an anthem for revolutionaries of the late 19th and early 20th century in Russia; Lenin often sang it with his comrades-in-arms. The song is still culturally central to Russia. Leonid Kharitonov remembers:

“My solo career truly began with a concert in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses on April 22, 1965, dedicated to the 95th anniversary of Lenin, when I sang “There is a cliff on the Volga.” [Click here to listen to this performance.]

This was my first solo performance. Brezhnev wept. He got up from his seat and wiped away the tears with his hands then applauded, and then everyone in the room stood up as well and applauded too. I do not know what my performance stirred in the hearts of Leonid Ilyich and the other listeners, but I would like this song to be considered a monument to the Russian victorious spirit. After that performance, I continued to be a soloist with the Ensemble for seven years, and, from then on, I was regarded as a serious professional singer among the musical and political elite.”

“I remember how after the concert Marshal Voroshilov came to see me backstage. After expressions of gratitude he hugged me as a father would and told me that Stalin also considered this song to be his favorite, and often played a record of it being performed by Alexander Pirogov, whenever he was sad at heart. “If Stalin was alive, then you would be leaving this room as a People’s Artist of the USSR – because you sing it better than Pirogov,” Voroshilov told me.”

Watch this video of Leonid Kharitonov’s 1965 Tchaikovsky Hall performance of “The Cliff”. This was his soloist debut at Tchaikovsky Hall:

Still more photos and information is available here.


Lyrics:

Есть на Волге утёс,  диким мохом оброс
Он с вершины до самого края.
И стоит сотни лет, только мохом одет,
Ни нужды, ни заботы не зная.
И стоит сотни лет, только мохом одет,
Ни нужды, ни заботы не зная.

На вершине его не растет ничего
Только ветер свободный гуляет.
Там могучий орел свой притон там завел
И на нем свои жертвы терзает.
Там могучий орел свой притон там завел
И на нем свои жертвы терзает.

Из людей лишь один на утёсе том был,
Лишь один до вершины добрался.
И утёс человека того не забыл,
И с тех пор его именем звался.

И поныне стоит тот утёс и хранит
Все заветные думы Степана,
И лишь с Волгой одной вспоминает порой
Удалое житьё атамана.
И лишь с Волгой одной вспоминает порой
Удалое житьё атамана.

There is a cliff on the Volga river
covered with wild moss
From its top to its bottom
And it stands there for hundreds of years
covered with moss
Knowing neither need nor care.
And it stands there for hundreds of years
covered with moss
Knowing neither need nor care.

Nothing grows on the top of it
Just the free wind floats around
A mighty eagle made his hideout there
And there it torments its victims.
A mighty eagle made his hideout there
And there it torments its victims.

Only one man among all others was on that cliff
Only he was able to get to the top
And the cliff didn’t forget this man
And from then on it was called by the man’s name.

And that cliff is still there and it still keeps
All the cherished thoughts of Stepan (Razin)
And along with only the Volga river
it remembers sometimes
The glorious living of the rebel leader
And along with only the Volga river
it remembers sometimes
The glorious living of the rebel leader!


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20 Responses to “The Cliff: History”

  1. Avatar Ben says:

    I have to say this song always calls me back to listen. I think it was this particular video or the one of Leonid singing the Song of the Volga Boatmen that started my interest in the Ensemble and later the Soviet Era itself.

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