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Performance notes: The nonsense syllables “trendi-brendi” imitate the strumming of a Russian folk instrument, the balalaika. The consonants must be percussive, and the r’s rolled or trilled, so these words do not end up sounding like “trendy brandy,” spoken by an American.
One of the premier interpreters of Sviridov’s works, Vladimir Minin, introduces a rhythmic variation in the accompaniment, performing the eighth notes in mm. 27–34 as dotted eighths and sixteenths. Minin also takes a significantly faster tempo of approximately quarter note = 136.
“Balalaika” is the second movement from Ladoga, a “choral (epic) poem” composed by Georgy Sviridov in the late 1970s, on texts by the poet Alexander Prokofiev, a native of the Russian northwest region surrounding Lake Ladoga.
In this charming piece Sviridov pays homage to this beloved Russian folk instrument, which he played as a child in a Russian folk orchestra. The chorus brilliantly imitates the characteristic manner in which the balalaika is played, by rhythmically strumming its three strings with a finger at the end of a loose wrist. Each voice part divides into either two or three parts: two of the parts imitate the characteristic ostinato at the open fifth (a plucking of two open strings), while the third voice is assigned the melody and the text. For the sake of clarity, the melodic voice is identified in the score by its own stems, independent of the other two voices.
The choral poem Ladoga was premiered on January 31, 1980, in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory by the Moscow Chamber Choir under the direction of Vladimir Minin. The entire score was has been re-published in 1983, 1986, 1990 and 2007; the present edition with phonetic text is based upon the latest 2007 edition: Georgy Sviridov, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii [Complete Collected Works], vol. 20. Moscow–St. Petersburg: National Sviridov Foundation, 2007. Used by permission.
—Adapted from notes by Alexander Belonenko