Monday, 10 October 2011

Bayan time (10): Ochi Chyornye

Another work-in-progress from Saturday: Ochi Chyornye (Очи чёрные = Black Eyes). Sorry about the general murkiness of sound; the laptop microphone isn't so good. It's a nice tune with such a huge history of variant covers that it allows plenty of scope for improvisation, whatever your skill level. It shows a couple of the many nice features of the bayan: the compactness of the layout, allowing a 'three-handed' effect (left-hand bass and, with unexceptional stretch, melody on right thumb and a third part over an octave above that using the other fingers of the right hand); and the ease of playing chromatic runs.

As the Wikipedia entry mentions, despite its reputation being stereotypically Russian, the lyrics to Очи чёрные are a Ukrainian romantic poem by Yevhen Hrebinka, and the music probably German. The poem is very Swinburne:

Очи чёрные, очи страстные
Очи жгучие и прекрасные
Как люблю я вас, как боюсь я вас
Знать, увидел вас я в недобрый час

Ох, недаром вы глубины темней!
Вижу траур в вас по душе моей,
Вижу пламя в вас я победное:
Сожжено на нём сердце бедное.

Но не грустен я, не печален я,
Утешительна мне судьба моя:
Всё, что лучшего в жизни Бог дал нам,
В жертву отдал я огневым глазам!

Dark eyes, passionate eyes
Burning and splendid eyes
How I love you, how I fear you
Verily, I espied you in an ill-starred moment

Oh, not for nothing are you darker than the deep!
I see mourning for my soul in you,
I see a triumphant flame in you:
A poor heart immolated in it.

But I am not sad, I am not sorrowful,
My fate is soothing to me:
All that is best in life, God gave us.
In sacrifice I returned to the fiery eyes!

Its tune is an 1884 arrangement of an originally piano piece called Hommage-Valse by a German composer, Florian Hermann. There's a deal of garbling of the composer name and title, but the most reliable sources I can find are in the Library of Congress Records of its Nicolas Slonimsky Collection ...

BOX 285 Gerdal, Sofus (arranger)
BOX 285 Ochi chernyia, ochi strastnyia (na motiv val'sa "Hammage" Germana)
[voice and piano]. Moscow: A. Gutkheĭl', 1884.
Photocopy and negative photocopy.
Based on "Hommage-valse" by Florian Hermann, quod vide.
BOX 287-A Hermann, Florian
Hommage-valse [piano]. [S.l.]: [s.n.], n.d.
Negative photocopy of original edition [?].

... and the entry in James J Fuld's The Book of World-Famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk (pp 417-418), which notes further that it appeared in collection billed as "favourite songs of the Moscow gypsies".

- Ray

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