Yesterday’s NYT carried a profile by Allan Kozinn of Lev Zhurbin (aka Ljova) who featured in a previous post about Joe Stickney’s poetry. From the profile:
Lev Zhurbin, the violist, composer and arranger who performs and writes under the name Ljova, almost always has a lot of projects before him. If he isn’t writing for, or recording with, his folk-classical ensemble, Ljova and the Kontraband, or performing in Romashka, a Gypsy band led by his wife, the singer Inna Barmash, he is working on film scores or transcriptions. (He has arranged Indian and Sephardic pieces for the Kronos Quartet; Asian and Eastern European works for Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project; Schubert and Shostakovich compositions for the Knights, a chamber orchestra).”
Which gives me the chance to recommend again Ljova and the Kontraband’s superb album, Mnemosyne. They are even better live, if that were possible.
Following this salute to the Moscow Seven, a poem by one of the seven, Vadim Delone (1947-1983, pictured in Paris in 1982), written in 1965, presumably following a performance of Mendelssohn’s E minor violin concerto (translation my own, with help from a Russian-English dictionary, a strong coffee, and Google Translate):
Outside indefinite and sleepy
Autumn rain rustled monotone.
The wind howled and rushed in with a groan
At the sound of a violin, a concerto of Mendelssohn.
I have long been used so painfully,
How long I have not sat sleepless,
So tired and so passive,
Since escaping to a concerto of Mendelssohn.
Running a telephone wire,
Voice of my pain betrayed involuntarily,
You asked me nervously –
What happened to you, what is it?
I could not have answered in monosyllables,
If you even thus groan,
What sounded in the night anxiously
The tempestuous strings of Mendelssohn.
Notes and References (Updated 2010-08-08):
All poetry loses in translation. Working on this poem, I learn that the Russian word for violin, skripka, is close to the word for creak or squeak or rasp, skrip. In an earlier version, I translated the last line of the poem as “Fiddling passionate Mendelssohn”, but this does not capture the original’s double meaning of violin-playing and rasping. I am very grateful to violist Lev Zhurbin for suggesting what is now the last line. With no folk violin tradition in Russia (unlike in Moldova or the Ukraine), there is no equivalent Russian word to the English word “fiddle”.
Websites (in Russian) devoted to Delone are here and here.
Another poem about a violin, Joe Stickney’s This is the Violin, is here. Other posts in this series are here.
Another fine poem from Joe Stickney:
This is the violin. If you remember –
One afternoon late, in the early days,
One of those inconsolable December
Twilights of city haze,
You came to teach me how the hardened fingers
Must drop and nail the music down, and how
The sound then drags and nettled cries, then lingers
After the dying bow. –
For so all that could never be is given
And flutters off these piteously thin
Strings, till the night of a midsummer heaven
Quivers . . . a violin.
I struggled, and alongside of a duty,
A nagging everyday-long commonplace!
I loved this hopeless exercise of beauty
Like an allotted grace, –
The changing scales and broken chords, the trying
From sombre notes below to catch the mark,
I have it all thro’ my heart, I tell you, crying
Childishly in the dark.
Poem XXVI, page 237, of:
Trumbull Stickney : The Poems of Trumbull Stickney. Selected and edited by Amberys R. Whittle. New York, NY, USA: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.
Previous poems by Trumbull Stickney here, and previous poetry posts here. Another poem about a violin, by Vadim Delone, here.