About this Recording
76065-2 - RUSSIA: A Tribute to Stesha: Early Music of Russian Gypsies

This recording is a tribute to the celebrated Russian-Gypsy diva Stepanida Soldatova (1787-1822), whose talent and imaginative performances influenced several generations of Russian musicians, composers, and writers. Professionally trained in bel canto, Stepanida synthesized her own signature style, combining the qualities of virtuoso operatic style and the oral performance tradition of Eastern-European Gypsies (Rroma).

Stesha, as she was known to her friends, started her performing career very young, singing with the famous Gypsy choir that was founded by Count Orlov during the reign of Catherine the Great. When she was only sixteen, she had a chance to listen to Teresa Maciurletti, an actress of the St Petersburg Italian Opera who performed several concerts in Moscow in 1803. This encounter apparently defined young Stesha’s aspirations to study professional music and the art of bel canto, and to apply these skills to her performance of Russian folk-songs. The direction this young singer chose for herself was completely atypical for a Gypsy musician of the time. Stesha was lucky to find a wealthy and competent music-lover who ‘applied all possible means to educate her extraordinary talent and taste’. She soon began to perform with her own ensemble, consisting of a male guitarist, a male violinist, and two more women singers. Typically for the Gypsy ensembles of the time, all members of the group also sang in choruses and danced - Stepanida herself was described as an extraordinary dancer.

One of Stesha’s admirers described her ensemble’s performance: ‘… one played violin, the other guitar, the women sang harmony, and all of it was such a chorus that one couldn’t but be struck with its resonance: it sounded like a real organ. And yet, Stepanida’s voice in forte passages covered all the voices and instruments, and at gentle moments was particularly harmonious’.

According to the same source, the famous Italian prima donna Angelica Catalani was so deeply moved by Stesha’s performance, that she immediately presented the Gypsy singer with a ring worth a thousand roubles. During her short and turbulent life Stepanida must have come across a great number of passionate and generous admirers. So it is all the more shocking that after her death no savings were left: this generous woman had supported not only her closest relatives, but several other families.

Unfortunately, although they admired Stesha, the composers, performers, and music-lovers among her contemporaries only rarely took the trouble of writing down her arrangements or variations. We are grateful, however, that at least a list of Stesha’s repertoire is well-documented: the folk-songs that her group performed appear in several nineteenth-century sources.

To undertake a reconstruction of Stesha’s art we had to work in two directions. First, we examined many scores of the well-known and obscure Russian composers whose arrangements must have been known to her: Ivan Rupin, Daniil Kashin, Aleksandr Alyabyev. Second, we learned about the Russian-Gypsy performance tradition first-hand by collaborating with an amazing trio of Moscow Gypsy musicians led by the legendary seven-string guitarist Aleksandr Kolpakov. The Russian Gypsies preserve aspects of earlier Russian music-making through oral transmission that otherwise have been lost. For example they are practically the only group who now still perform professionally on the seven-string guitar, a unique Russian instrument in open G major tuning, especially popular in Russia between about 1800 and 1850. Since the widespread popularity of the instrument coincided with the rise in popularity of Gypsy choirs and soloists, the seven-string guitar became the favourite instrument of Russian Gypsies.

All the songs with Russian lyrics [tracks 2, 3, 5, 9, 11, 15, 17, 18] originate in written sources and are freely arranged according to ‘Gypsy guidelines’. This means that following the enthusiastic and generous advice of the Kolpakovs, we truncated the lyrics of the Russian folk-songs, sacrificing excessive narrative detail in favour of nonsense syllables such as ‘ay nane’. More importantly, we followed the structural templates that our Gypsy colleagues offered for the tempi and rhythm in each piece. For example, in the Russian Gypsy tradition, it is common to start a song with a guitar prelude, then to continue in a recitative-like verse with minimal accompaniment, and only gradually to gain the engaging rhythmic vitality that is so typical for Rroma performers worldwide.

For the songs in the Rroma language [tracks 4, 6, 8, 12, 14, 19], our Rroma colleagues showed the rest of the group how to perform this music according to Russian Gypsy performance practice that has been passed down orally, generation to generation, since Stesha’s time. They taught us the words, harmonic patterns, melodic variations, dancing and clapping practice, together with many nuances that cannot possibly be put down on paper.

Given the multiplicity of styles in which she sang, Stesha herself is an early example of ‘crossover’ musicality. In our programme the operatic and the ethnic facets of her singing are impersonated by the early music specialist Anne Harley and by a celebrated Muscovite Gypsy singer, Tamara Cherepovskaia, respectively.

The album starts with Sasha Kolpakov’s own guitar composition Khelebnitko [1], which merges into our arrangement of The Little Willow Tree [2], a playful Russian folk-song from Stesha’s repertoire. In our attempt to reconstruct some of the theatrical elements of the nineteenth-century Gypsy choirs, we dwell upon the song’s dramatic narrative, introducing every member of our ensemble with a line of the song. The next song, As The Mist Rose [3], is based on the only surviving sample of Stesha’s singing, as notated by Aleksandr Guriliov. Full of melodic embellishment, this song gives a striking example of the Schubertian juxtaposition of A minor and A major, which is atypical in Russian folk-songs but rather common in Russian romansy. The pensive prelude is improvised by Sasha Kolpakov, and the rest of the arrangement is the result of our collective effort to rework the original piano score. Tamara Cherepovskaia’s response to this ephemeral composition is the engaging Mar Dzhandzha [4]. Similar to the other traditional Rroma items on the programme [tracks 6, 8, 12, 14, 19], this song is a Gypsy hit that any group of Russian Gypsies can perform at a moment’s notice. Here Etienne Abelin’s violin variations are the result of his ad hoc ethnomusicological research: he spent hours collecting and transcribing musical ideas from Sasha and Vadim. The tantalising Luchinushka was one of the most beloved concert items of the time.

The guitar variations I Knew No Worries, Ah Mother, I Have A Headache, and I Am A Gypsy Girl” [7], [10] and [13] respectively, were published by the celebrated Russian guitarist, composer, and improviser Mikhail Vysotsky (1791–1837). Vysotsky was renowned for his love for Gypsy music: in his virtuosic guitar variations he often imitates the Gypsy vocal style of the time, full of legato, glissando, and portamento gestures. In turn, the Gypsy musicians from Ilya Sokolov’s choir took guitar lessons from Vysotsky and adopted some of his technical discoveries for their needs. As incredible as it may seem, we find vestiges of this exchange to this day in the seven-string style of Sasha and Vadim Kolpakov.

There are several different settings of Ah, Had I Known Before [9] that Stesha might have sung with her ensemble. We used the version by Alexander Alyabyev (1787-1857), not only because of its superior quality, but also because it offered a four-part choral response to each verse, a typical feature of Russian romances composed in Gypsy style.

Of particular interest are the violin variations on Luchinushka by Gavriil Rachinsky (1777-1843). A renowned virtuoso of his time, this Ukrainian composer spent his most productive years in Moscow, precisely at the time when Stesha was gaining universal recognition. Rachinsky is reported to have composed some music for the Russian seven-string guitar as well, but unfortunately, this Luchinushka for violin and piano is his only publication. The prelude is taken verbatim from Rachinsky’s piano score, while the remaining guitar accompaniment here is improvised in the Gypsy style.

The album concludes with a suite, based on two arrangements by Ivan Rupin (1792-1850), a talented singer and composer sometimes referred to as ‘The Russian Nightingale’. Like Stesha, he too was trained in bel canto by the Italian singer P. Muscetti in Moscow, and even Italianised his last name in his publications as Rupini. For Rupin and his peers it was customary to pair a slower song with an upbeat one: this is how My Little Dove [17] and I Walked On The Flowers [18] were originally published. In our performance we add the Rroma folk-song Kaj jone romale? [19]. The juxtaposition of Rupin’s Italianate style and the genuine Rroma sound of the living Gypsy tradition, as well as the striking contrast between classical and Rroma vocal production make this suite the epitome of TALISMAN’s ‘Stesha’ project.

Oleg Timofeyev


Ivushka, ivushka, zelionaia moia,
Chto zhe ty, ivushka, ne zelena stoish’?
Al’ tebia ivushku solnyshko pechiot,
Pod koreshok kliucheva voda techiot?
Ekhali tsygane iz Novogoroda,
Srubili ivushku pod samyi koreshok.
Stali oni ivushku potiosyvati,
Sdelali iz ivushki dva vesla,
Dva vesla–tret’iu lodochku.
Seli oni v lodochku, poekhali domoi.
Nashi priekhali, zdorovo li zhivut–
Vziali, podkhvatili krasnu devitsu s soboi.
Stali oni devitsu sprashivati:
–Devitsa, devitsa, krasavitsa moia!
–Chto zhe ty, devitsa, nevesela sidish’?
–Ali ty krasnaia dumaesch’ o chiom?
–Kak zhe mne devitse vesioloi byt’,
Kak mne vesioloi byt’ i radostnoi?
Mladshuiu sestru naperiod zamuzh daiut,
Mladshaia sestra chem zhe luchshe menia?

Little Willow Tree
Little willow tree, my green one:
One aren't you [really] green?
Perhaps you are overheated by the son,
Or your roots are flooded with spring water?
The Gypsies of Novgorod passed by,
They cut the Willow Tree by the very root.
They started shaving the willow tree down,
They made two oars out of it,
Two oars, the third one being a little boat-
They got into the boat and went home.
Our guys arrived -- so how is it going?
They picked up and took a beautiful maiden along,
They began to ask the maiden:
«Maiden, maiden, my beauty!
Why are you, maiden, sitting so sad?
Are you, beautiful, thinking of something?»
«How could I, maiden, be jolly,
Be jolly and happy?
They are marrying my younger sister off
Earlier than me,
My younger sister – how can she be better than me?»

Uzh kak pal tuman
Uzh kak pal tuman na sine more,
A zlodei toska v retivo serdse.
Ne skhodit’ tumany s sinia moria!
Uzh ne vyidti kruchine iz serdtsa von!..
Ty vzoidi, vzoidi krasno solnyshko.
Ty sgoni tuman s sinia moria,
I moia toska, i moia toska,
Vyidet iz serdtsa von.

As The Mist Rose
As the mist rose above the blue sea,
The bitter sorrow entered my young heart.
As the mist won’t leave the blue sea,
So the sorrow won’t leave the heart!
Arise you, the beautiful sun,
Push away the fog from the blue sea,
And my sorrow will leave my heart.

Mar dzhandzha (Moldavian-Gypsy Song)
Sako dela del o del mamo lee
Pasho maro tsino kher dale hei
Le shcheiora, le shcheiora shukarnia
Le zlagensa, le zlagensa pe kora

Mar zhanhzhya, mar dzhanzhya te khelel,
Te dikhen, tut te dikhen tut le shcheia
Le shcheiora, le shcheiora shukarnia
Le zlagensa, le zlagensa pe kora.
Oidarai da etc.

Kon avela, kon avela vsa shukar,
Save chave mai shukar
Ande parne gadora
Le shcheiange romora
Oidarai da etc.

Mar zhanhzhia, mar dzhanzhia te khelel
Te dikxen, tut te dikhen tut le shcheia
Le shcheiora, te khelen
Le shavora te dikhen.
Oidarai da etc.

Dance, Dzhandzha!
Every day that God gives us
Beautiful maidens wearing golden necklaces
Dance near our little house.

Dance, Dzhandzha, so that other maidens will look at you,
Beautiful maidens wearing golden necklaces.
Whoever comes – one is more handsome than the other,
In beautiful white shirts
Husbands for the maidens.
Oi dara dai daida etc.

Dance, Dzhandzha, so that other maidens will look at you,
And will dance with you,
And that the grooms would give you a better look.
Oi dara dai daida etc.
So that the grooms would give you a better look,
And also begin to dance.

Luchina, luchinushka, beriozovaia–
Chto zhe ty, luchinushka, neiasno gorish’?
Chto zhe ty, luchinushka, neiasno gorish’,
Neiasno gorish’, ne vspykhivaesh’?
Podruzhen’ki, golubushki, lozhites’ spat’,
Lozhites’ spat’, vam nekogo zhdat’.
A mne molodeshen’ke vsiu nochku ne spat’,
Vsiu nochku ne spat’, mila druga zhdat’.

Little Light
Luchina, luchinushka, made out of birch wood,
Why are you, luchinushka, burning so dimly?
Why are you burning so dimly,
Giving so little light?
My girlfriends, little doves, you should go to bed,
You should go to bed, you have no one to wait for.
But I, a young woman, won’t sleep the whole night,
Won’t sleep the whole night, will wait for my dear friend.

Syr mange prikhaiape
Sir mangeh prikhaiyape
Bitsa maiyetsa
Djipen mangeh miro kanah

Dara dai tam …

Ay ne fartushka,
Ne podrublyenaya,
Savi amendeh snoshka

Dara dai tam …

Ay savo chavo,
Savo chavo dilino,
Nakinela yov Romnyakhe,
Parno lolo dikhlo.

Dara dai tam …

Tired Of Fighting
How tired I am
Of slaving away in life,
I don't like my life now.

Dara dai tam …

Ay, my apron
Doesn’t have a home,
Our daughter-in-law
Is no sweetheart.

Dara dai tam …

Ay what a guy,
What a stupid guy,
He isn't buying her
A beautiful white dress.

Dara dai tam …

Shel me versty
Shel me versty
Terno progeiom
Ay ni kai para peske nalakhtiom

Ai dai dada…

Ande foro moskva me iaviom
ay romnoria peske liiom

Ai dai dada…

Sashenka mashenka pre kale yakha
zachem zgubila molodtsa menya?

Ai dai dada…

I Walked Many Miles
100 versts I traversed
As a young lad,
But nowhere could I find a wife.

Ai dai dada…

When I returned to Moscow
I found myself a wife.

Ai dai dada…

Sashenka-Mashenka, with your black eyes
Why did you ruin my life?

Ai dai dada…

Akh, kogda b ia prezhde znala
(by I. Dmitriev)
[Tamara Cherepovskaia:]
Akh, kogda b ia prezhde znala,
Chto liubov’ rodit bedy,
Veselias’ by ne vstrechala
Polunochnye zvezdy,
Ne lila b, ot vsekh ukratkoi,
Zolotago ia kol’tsa,
Ne zhila b v nadezhde sladkoi
Videt’ milogo l’stetsa.

Ne byla b v nadezhde sladkoi
Videt’ milogo l’stetsa.

[Anne Harley:]
K udaleniiu udara,
V liutoi, zloi moei sud’be,
Ia slila b iz voska iara
Liogki krylushki sebe,
I na rodinu vsporkhnula
Mila druga moego.
Nezhno, nezhno by vzglianula
Khot’ odnazhdy na nego.

Nezhno, nezhno by vzglianula
Khot’ odnazhdy na nego.

Ah, Had I Known Before
Ah, had I known before
That love produces disasters,
I would’ve not been excited
Staying up to meet the midnight’s stars.
I would’ve not melted in secret
The golden ring,
I would’ve not lived in the sweet hope
To see the dear flatterer.

I would’ve not lived in the sweet hope
To see the dear flatterer.

To distant myself from the stroke
Of my unkind fate,
I would’ve made two light wings
Out of beewax.
I would’ve flown to the motherland
Of my dear friend,
I would’ve looked tenderly
At him at least once.

I would’ve looked tenderly
At him at least once.

Chernobrovyi, chernookii
Chernobrovyi, chernookii,
Molodets khoroshii
Vlozhil mysli v moio serdtse–
Ne mogu zabyti.
No ty serdtse retivoe
Propalo, pogiblo,
Ne vorotish’ mila druga
Ni bylogo schast’ia.
On uekhal, ne priedet,
Druguiu poliubit,
Zachem serdtse strastno
Ego ne zabudet.
Napishu pis’mo ia sliozno
Milomu drugu,
So pis’mom prishliu platochek,
Milogo podarok.
Soschitai goriuchi sliozy
Na alom platochke,
Vspomiani o krasnoi devke,
O prezhnei liubovi.
Voet strashna nepogoda,
Voet syr-bor za rekoiu,
Voet metelitsa v pole.
Ne uznaiu ia sledochku
Moego dragogo,
Ne uslyshushu ego
Solov’inyi golosochek.
Znat’ naprasno, retivoe,
Po milom ty biosh’sia,
Znat’ iznyt’ tebe, serdtse bedno,
Ot tiazhkoi ot skuki.
Ne khodit’ bylo krasnoi devke
Vdol’ po lugu, lugu,
Ne iskat’ bylo glazami
Prigozhikh, udalykh.
Ne liubit’ bylo krasnoi devke
Molodogo parnia,
Poberech’ bylo krasnoi devke
Svoio nezhno serdtse.

A Dark-Eyed Lad
A black-browed, black-eyed lad,
A good-looking fellow,
Brought thoughts into my heart,
That I can’t forget.
But you, the happy heart,
Now you will perish,
I can’t forget the dear friend,
And the happiness of the past.
He left, he won’t come back,
He will fall in love with a different one.
Why can’t my passionate heart
Forget him?
I will write a pitiful letter
To my dear friend,
And will send a gift along,
A silken neckerchief.
Count the bitter tears
On the crimson neckerchief,
Remember the beautiful maiden,
Your previous love!
The terrible weather is roaring,
The forest is making noises beyond the river,
The wind is howling in the forest,
I won’t recognize the footprints
Of my dear one.
I won’t recognize his tender
Voice of a nightingale.
So, in vain you are beating,
My poor heart,
So, you will be tortured
By the deep depression.
The beautiful maiden should not have walked
Along the field,
She should not have looked
For good-looking lads.
A beautiful maiden should have not loved
A young fellow,
A beautiful maiden should have taken a better care
Of her tender heart.


Chaso palo chaso
Ai chaso, romale-le, palo chaso
Ai sare ratia
Me, na sutyom, dai kana,
Bari duma dumindiom,
Ehe! dumindiom.

Ai bari duma, romale-le, duminiom
Ai syvones myli gres ai ulydzhiom dai kana,
A yov drom torno–ehe!–daikalo
Tuzh v a mro shero
Ehe! dali mro shero

Hour After Hour
Hour by hour
Goes by,
And all night,
I haven’t slept.
Ay, big thoughts I have thought,
Ay, a handsome stallion I stole
And the road is rough and dark.
Take me away !
Ehe! Yes, take me!


Syvo, syvo
Ay tu mro syvo, syvo,
ay tu vylydzha man,
ay tu vylydzha mro shero!

Tay daradom…
ay tu vylydzha mro shero!

Ay pasho maro maro,
Ay pasho maro maro,
Tsino kher,
Odoi Roma shukar dzhiven.

Tay daradom…
Odoi Roma shukar dzhiven.

Ay ty moi kon’ bulanyi,
Nu otvezi menia,
Nu otvezi menia domoi!

Tay daradom…
Nu otvezi menia domoi!

My Horse, My Horse
Oh you, my little horse,
little horse!
Oh, carry me away,
Oh, carry my head away.

Tay daradom…
Oh, carry my head away.

Ay, right nearby,
Nearby our little house,
There the Gypsies live well.

Tay daradom…
There the Gypsies live well.

Ay you my dun stallion,
My black horse,
Take me away,
Take me away back home!

Tay daradom…
Take me away back home!

Chem tebia ia ogorchila?
Chem tebia ia ogorchila, ty skazhi, liubeznyi moi?
Ili tem, chto poliubila, poteriala svoi pokoi?
Ni pokoiu, ni zdorovia ne zhalela dlia tebia?
Slyshu, vizhu, ty vzdykhaesh’: est’ inaia u tebia.
Vspominaet moio serdtse po tebe, liubeznoi moi!
Gori, gori, moio serdtse, razgoraisia v litse krov’!
Tvoei vernosti ne znala, nachala druzhka liubit’.
Vliublena v druzhka smertel’no po neschastiu svoemu.
Skol’ko gorestei terpliu, tebia, milen’kii, liubliu!
Akh vy kudri, moi kudri, kudri rusye moi!
Razvivala rusy kudri chuzha dal’nia storona,
Chuzha dal’nia storona, krasna devitsa dusha.

How Did I Upset You?
How did I upset you, tell me, my dear?
Perhaps because I fell in love with you, lost my peace?
Because I lost my peace and health for you?
I hear, I see, you are sighing, you have another beloved.
My heart remembers you, my dear!
Burn, burn, my heart, blush my face;
I didn’t know your faithfulness when I began to love passionately,
I am in deadly in love with my friend, to my own misfortune.
How much bitterness I withstand
Because I love you:
Ah you, curls, my ash-colored curls!
Your curls got combed far away, in a distant place,
In a distant place, by a beautiful maiden.

Golubchik, golubchik!
Golubchik ty moi!
Akh! Chozh ty, golubchik,
Nevesiol sidish’?
Kak zhe mne, golubchiku,
Vesiolomu byt’,
Vesiolomu byt’
I radostnomu?
Vechor u meniagolubchika
Golubka byla,
Golubka byla,
So mnoi klevala.
Po utru ranioshen’ka
Ubita lezhit,
Ubita lezhit,

My Little Dove
Little dove, my little dove,
Why are you sitting so depressed?
How could I, little dove, be jolly,
How could I be happy?
Last night my girlfriend was visiting,
We ate grains together.
Early in the morning I found her killed,
She lay killed, shot to death.

Ia po tsvetikam khodila
Ia po tsvetikam khodila,
Po lazorevym guliala,
Po lazorevym guliala,
Tsveta alogo iskala,
Ne nashla tsveta alogo
Suprotiv svogo milovogo.
Akh, moi milen’kii khorosh,
Chernobrov, rumian prigozh,
Chernobrov, rumian prigozh,
Mne podarochek prinios.
Podarochek dorogoi,
S ruki persten’ zolotoi–
Ne khochu perstnia nosit’,
Budu tak druzhka liubit’!

I Walked Among The Flowers
I walked among the flowers,
I walked among the blue ones,
Looking for the red one,
I didn’t find a red one
To match my beloved.
Ah, my beloved is good looking.
He has black brows and rosy cheeks,
He brought me a dear present.
It’s an expensive dear present, a golden ring.
I don’t want to wear the ring,
I simply want to love my friend.

Kaj jone romale
Kai jone Romale,
Kai jone mire
Yo lova sovnakune.

Ay ne ne,
Ay tam dara…

Dzhide iavasa,
Kana na merasa,
Me shukir ay zadzhivaiasa.

Ay ne ne,
Ay tam dara…

Kai jone, karik jone gane,
Bishasa pre matoro
Iavasa khe tume!

Ay ne ne,
Ay tam dara…

Where Have The Gypsies Gone?
Where are they, the Gypsies,
Where are they, my words,
My golden words.

Ay ne ne,
Ay tam dara…

We will live,
Now we will not die,
We we live well.

Ay ne ne,
Ay tam dara…

Where are they, where have they gone,
We will get in the car,
And come to you.

Ay ne ne,
Ay tam dara…

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