Two Guitars

Two Guitars (Russian song “Dve Gitari”) by Ivan Vasiliev.

In Russia – like anywhere else – there was a mixed attitude toward Gypsies. On the one hand, they were feared and suspected: men were famous horse thieves; women were fortunetellers, which was always considered close to witchcraft. On the other hand, they were romanticized and even envied – for their carefree lifestyle, their independence, their free love, their temperament; and, of course, for their musicality.

In the 19th century, there was a very common expression in Russia: “to carouse with the Gypsies”. Every good restaurant boasted a band of Gypsy singers and dancers, and almost daily, nobleman and gentries went to carouse with the Gypsies...

The most famous Gypsy ensemble was the choir of Ivan Vasiliev. One time, his friend, the poet Apollon Grigoriev, heard the choir and was so taken by the singing and the guitar accompaniment, that he wrote a poem about it. He called the poem “Two Guitars”. This is a very strange poem: it talks of carousing with the Gypsies, of week-long drinking bouts, of the inevitable hangovers... At the same time, Grigoriev discusses the music almost as a musicologist: “the melody in d-minor, the base movements, the intervals of fifths”...

When the poet finished the text, he showed it to his friend Vasiliev, the choir director. And what of Valisiev? He did what every good musician would do: he composed a lively melody to go along with the lyrics. And so the song “Two Guitars” was born!

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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