Coachman, Don’t Rush the Horses

Coachman, Don’t Rush the Horses (Russian song “Yamshik, ne Goni Loshadei”) by Yakov Feldman

This piece is a good example of a song that’s considered to be Gypsy – and is not! The poet was a Russified German, the composer – a Jew. Still, the Gypsies have made this melody – as well as hundreds of other Russian songs – their own, by virtue of their temperamental singing.

The image of horses, of carriage-and-three, and of swift riding was one of the central themes in Russian art, and moreover – in the Russian psyche. Because Russians had so little liberty in their everyday life, the fast horse-riding on the vast Russian plains gave them this missing feeling of freedom. This is my personal speculation: maybe there was another cause. Whatever the reason, there were many horses in literature, in painting… And, of course, in music. Look at these song titles:

-    Rush faster, horses!

-    Hey, carriage-and-three

-    Here goes a daring carriage-and-three

-    Here rushes the postal carriage

-    Coachman song

-    Rush, Coachman!

And another song, specifying where exactly to rush to:

-    Coachman, rush to the Yar! (a famous Russian restaurant)

All these songs created the image of fast, rushing horses. Maybe as a reaction to all this, the “Coachman, Don’t Rush the Horses” was composed.

The text of the song -- as in most other Russian songs of the time -- is gloomy to the extreme:

How sad and foggy all around me,

How dreary and dismal my way.

The past seems like a dream

That torments my aching heart.

Coachman, do not rush the horses:

I have nowhere to hurry,

I have nobody to love.

Coachman, do not rush the horses!

In spite of these dismal words, the music is lively and fiery. It is interesting that just in the refrain, where the hero is begging the coachman not to rush, the music is rushing forward. This is what makes this tune sound so Gypsy, and this is the way I play it.

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This story is just a tidbit from Alexander's "Songs of Exiles" concert program. To hear the full story, together with Alexander's virtuoso performance, come see him at his next concert! To buy this track, or the full CD of the music from "Songs of Exiles", follow the link on the left.  

You may also listen to a sample of this song on or iTunes