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Alexander Alabieff (today usually transliterated in English as Alyabyev) is not a name that often comes to mind when we in the West discuss Russian composers. But one romance by Alabieff is known to virtually every Russian – at least, by ear. No song has ever captured the spirit of the Russian soul so memorably as Alabieff’s "The Nightingale."
Soon after it was published in the 1840s, Mikhail Glinka arranged it for voice and orchestra – and in this form, it quickly swept Russia. Soon everyone sang "The Nightingale." Slowly, it made its way to the West. Franz Liszt published a virtuoso paraphrase for piano on the song. Later, he made a simpler version for everyday pianists to play (and sing) at home. Brahms also arranged it for piano in a suite entitled "Souvenirs of Russia," published under a pseudonym, G. W. Marx.
In my opinion, of all the many versions, none can compare with the magical version by the Belgian violinist/composer Henri Vieuxtemps. He first heard the song while on tour in Russia in the 1850s. He wrote his Fantaisie for violin and piano in Russia, and brought it back to Belgium – where it enjoyed great success. I have arranged Vieuxtemps piano accompaniment for string orchestra – enabling the piece to be performed by violinists appearing as soloist with string orchestras and chamber orchestras.
In addition to perusing the score online and hearing it played by basic MIDI sounds with SCORCH, you can also listen online to an MP3 of this piece, made with enhanced musical sounds.
Please let me know what you think of this orchestral arrangement of Vieuxtemps Fantaisie sur Le Rossignol d’Alabeiff. I am always interested to read listeners’ comments. You can reach Mark Starr at firstname.lastname@example.org
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