Where did Petersburg’s organ-grinders go in winter?

I fear only some of them migrated with the swallows. Featuring Boris Sadovskoy, Yuri Norstein, Aleksey Batalov, Rolan Bykov and Gogol.

The great Rolan Bykov in The Overcoat, with not an organ-grinder in sight.

The great Rolan Bykov in The Overcoat, with not an organ-grinder in sight.

Two films Friday night: Tralala Land, a preppy ramble contra elevator music, set to elevator music (Slate/Observer/Vice); then Aleksey Batalov and Rolan Bykov’s extraordinary 1959 version of “The Greatcoat” (in which story Gogol showed Russians how to write) – similar percentage of jazz, but with proper dancing (staggering), a professional score, drinking, smoking, crime, heartfelt singing… No organ grinders, though:


English: click the subtitle icon and select from the gear icon.

Grigorovich touches on the fate of the Petersburg organ-grinders during winter, which was marginally better than that of the livestock left to freeze to death in Haymarket Square in order to save on their pre-sale bed & breakfast. The following anecdote hints at what must have been a dreadful experience (translation corrections welcome). It’s from the the recollections of Boris Sadovskoy, one of the most curious literary figures in the run-up to the October Revolution, which is saying quite something, and posh but not preppy:

Many organ-grinders roamed Lower [Petersburg], 1 playing Italian arias and the inevitable Kamarinskaya. 2 During the winter of 1897, a couple of organ-grinders strayed into the shared courtyard. One turned the handle of the box while the other beat the tambourine dashingly and whistled like a nightingale. The latter was a cheerful, tough lad in a fashionable, fur jacket. In spring they played again, haggard, grim, in rags. The boy somehow whistled Kamarinskaya and stretched out to my window a ragged cap with a pitiful, pleading smile. He could barely stand from weakness. They visited the courtyard along with a classic Petrushka. From behind the screen, to the sounds of the barrel organ, jumped in turn his bride, the soldier, the apothecary, and the devil.

По Нижнему бродило много шарманщиков. Игрались итальянские арии и неизбежный камаринский. Зимой 1897 г. два шарманщика зашли на удельный двор. Один вертел ручку ящика, другой лихо бил в бубен и свистал как соловей. Это был веселый крепкий парень в щегольском полушубке. Весной они играли опять, испитые, угрюмые, в лохмотьях. Парень кое-как просвистал камаринского, протянул к моему окну рваный картуз с жалкой умоляющей улыбкой. Он еле стоял от слабости. Заходил к нам на двор и классический Петрушка. Из-за ширм, под звуки шарманки, выскакивали поочередно невеста, солдат, аптекарь и черт.

“The Overcoat” the world has been awaiting for the last 40 years is Yuri Norstein’s:

I’m confident there won’t be any barrel organs in that either. But, as you know, nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

Stuff

  1. Nieder-/Ober-? Can’t find anyone else who classifies Petersburg geography this way. Class – lowlife? Then why the capitalisation?
  2. Early and quickly ubiquitous nationalist ditty-dance by Glinka – a kind of Russian Birdie Song. The least dull version features Donald Byrne and Bobby Fischer:

Posted on Categories Uncategorized

Barrel organ (300):

Boris Sadovskoy (1): Boris Alexandrovich Sadovskoy was a Russian poet, prosaic, literary critic of the Silver Age of Russian poetry.

Dmitry Grigorovich (3): Dmitry Vasilyevich Grigorovich was a Russian writer, best known for his first two novels, The Village and Anton Goremyka, and lauded as the first author to have realistically portrayed the life of the Russian rural community and openly condemn the system of serfdom.

Kamarinskaya (1): Kamarinskaya is a Russian traditional folk dance, which is mostly known today as the Russian composer Mikhail Glinka's composition of the same name.

Mechanical organ (300):

Mikhail Glinka (1): Mikhail Glinka was the first Russian composer to gain wide recognition within his own country, and is often regarded as the fountainhead of Russian classical music.

Nikolai Gogol (3): Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol was a Ukrainian-born Russian dramatist, novelist and short story writer whose work was strongly influenced by Ukrainian culture.

Petrushka (9): Petrushka is a stock character of Russian folk puppetry known at least since 17th century.

Rolan Bykov (1): Rolan Antonovich Bykov was a Soviet and Russian actor, film director, script writer, poet, song writer.

Russia (11):

Saint Petersburg (5):

Street organ (300):

The Game of the Century (chess) (1): In chess, The Game of the Century is a chess game played between Donald Byrne and 13-year-old Bobby Fischer in the Rosenwald Memorial Tournament in New York City on October 17, 1956, which Fischer won.

The Overcoat (1): "The Overcoat" is a short story by Ukrainian-born Russian author Nikolai Gogol, published in 1842.

The Physiology of Saint Petersburg (2): The Physiology of Saint Petersburg is the first of three major literary almanacs compiled and edited in the 1840s by Nikolai Nekrasov.

Translation (24):

Yuriy Norshteyn (1): Yuriy Borisovich Norshteyn, PAR, or Yuri Norstein is a Soviet and Russian animator best known for his animated shorts, Hedgehog in the Fog and Tale of Tales.


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