Alexander Nevsky cantata by Sergei Prokofiev in the museum Sound Library
Cantata "Alexander Nevsky" – composition by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) for mezzo-soprano, choir and orchestra. The musical text is based on the score by Prokofiev for the eponymous film “Alexander Nevsky” by Sergei Eisenstein (1869-1948), shooted in 1938. The vocal parts were written to the lyrics by Vladimir Lugovskoy. The first performance took place in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire on 17 May 1939 under the baton of the author.
Cantata "Alexander Nevsky" consists of seven movements:
"Russia under the yoke of Mongolia"
"Song about Alexander Nevsky" (choir and orchestra)
"Crusaders in Pskov" (choir and orchestra)
"Arise, Russian People" (choir and orchestra)
"Battle on the Ice” (choir and orchestra)
"The Field of the Dead" (mezzo-soprano, orchestra)
"Alexander's Entry into Pskov" (chorus and orchestra)
The cantata is an example of the Soviet historical and heroic epos. The work depicts the enemy invasion, patriotic rise of the whole nation, the drastic battle, the mourning of the fallen and glorification of the Motherland.
Alexander Nevsky was the Prince of Novgorod, a farsighted politician, great warrior, strategist and tactician, who did not lose a single battle. He deserved the title of a true Christian ruler, guardian of the Orthodox faith and freedom of the people.
Alexander Nevsky was born in Pereslavl-Zalessky on May 13, 1221. At the age of 4 years, Alexander was initiated as a warrior and was given the title of prince. In early childhood, he received a comprehensive education. The tutors of the young prince were members of the clergy: bishops, priests and monks. He studied military arts and learnt languages. From his early years, Alexander accompanied his father, Yaroslav Vsevolodovich, in his campaigns. In 1235, Alexander took part in the battle on the river Emajõgi (the present-day Estonia), where the troops of Yaroslav defeated the Germans. In 1240, Alexander defeated the Swedes, who landed on the banks of the river Neva -- this event was destined to become the reason for the nickname of the prince. He successfully defeated the Teutonic Knights - he cleared Novgorod from enemy detachments who robbed merchants and peasants, repulsed Pskov, which the crusaders captured, and then on April 5, 1242 inflicted a defeat on the Knights in the battle on Lake Peipus. Competent tactical maneuvering and distribution of forces contributed to achieving the victory. The Battle on the Ice was of enormous significance not only for Novgorod, but also for the whole of Russia. On the ice of Lake Peipus the crusader aggression was stopped, Russia gained peace and stability on its northwestern borders.
In 1243, the father of Nevsky, Yaroslav was the first of Russian princes who was summoned to Golden Horde to Batu Khan, and Alexander himself continued to hold defense - this time from the frequent attacks of Lithuanian princes. In 1245, Alexander with the soldiers released Torzhok, Bezhetsk and Toropets that were captured by the n army of the Great Princedom of Lithuania.
Many historians reproach Alexander Nevsky for not participating in fights with Tatars. Perhaps they do not pay much attention to the fact that the Prince during this period protected Russia on its western borders, and he was very good at it. The battles with the crusaders and the victory over them were of great importance to Russia.
After his father's death in 1246, Alexander and his brother Andrey had to go to the Khans to bow and receive jarlig for reigning. Andrey received the Grand Principality of Vladimir and Alexander received Principality of Kiev and Novgorod Republic. Since after the Mongol invasion Kiev lost its strategic value, Alexander did not go there, and stayed in Novgorod. Relying on the Novgorod nobility, he forced the townspeople to submit to the Mongolian census and the necessity to pay tribute to the Khan.
Alexander's policy for a long time defined relations between Russia and the Horde. Subsequently the Moscow princes -- grandchildren and great-grandsons of Alexander Nevsky, continued this policy of the Horde appeasement. However, the historical paradox - or rather, the historical regularity – was that it were they, the successors of Alexander Nevsky policy, who will succeed in reviving the might of Russia and in throwing off the hated yoke after all.
Alexander Nevsky died on November 14, 1263, and was buried in the Holy Nativity monastery in Vladimir. In 1724, the relics of the saint prince were reburied in the Alexander Nevsky monastery in Saint Petersburg.
Streets, lanes, squares, etc. are named after Alexander Nevsky. He is the saint patron of St. Petersburg and Petrozavodsk. No lifetime image of Alexander Nevsky has reached our days. Therefore, for the image of the prince on the order, in 1942, its author, architect Igor Telyatnikov used a portrait of the actor Nikolay Cherkasov, who played the role of the prince in the film "Alexander Nevsky". The 20th century outstanding composer, Sergei Prokofiev, created composed the music for the film. It proved so impressive and so enraptured the author himself that Prokofiev subsequently combined the musical fragments into a single work - the cantata "Alexander Nevsky". The entire country knew and knows to this day its famous fourth movement - "Arise, Russian People!
For the birthday of Alexander Nevsky we have digitized a vinyl record from the museum Collection Sound Library with the recording of the cantata "Alexander Nevsky" performed by the Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir of Mexico City*.
*The record was produced in Bulgaria, by the Balkanton record company, and digitized on Audio-Technica vinyl player.