They say children don't know things that adults don't remember. But fortunately, we still have adults who remember a lot. How wonderful it is that we have an opportunity to hear their stories.
Otherwise, in the endless weeks of the lockdown, people might have gone mad or even worse. After all, most domestic TV channels, as if competing with each other, supplied mostly low-grade products – crime TV series and never-ending queries on “who with whom, from whom and why.” Although there were some pleasant exceptions, like the Music of Peace and War trilogy, that was aired recently by the Rossiya-Kultura (Russia Culture) TV channel. Unlike other TV channels, Rossiya-Kultura continues to please its audiences with a reverential attitude to Russian history.
This TV series was created by Valentin Ternyavsky, the well-known TV and radio reporter. For the first time, they were put on air for the 60th anniversary of Victory Day, a holiday that commemorates the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945. The film about the not-so-distant a past helps us to get acquainted with the circumstances of World War II and everything that had preceded it in a new way. The search that script writer Ternyavsky and director Sergei Sidorenko have done in film archives is very impressive. Against the background of the most destructive battle in the history of mankind, they excitedly continued their great work of influencing people’s minds and souls.
Valentin Ternyavsky told our correspondent that the film crew, namely, Sergei Sidorenko, cameraman Alexey Smirnov, and Ternyavsky himself had made trips to St. Petersburg, Brest, Volgograd, the insular fortress of Kronstadt near St Petersburg and Berlin on business trips.
“We were shooting memorial places related to the history of World War II. Not only does the architecture of palaces, monuments, state buildings, and memorials symbolize. Rivers that impersonate the passage of time. There are the Moskva, the Volga, the Neva, and the Bug rivers in our film. There is a story associated with the Bug. I was rather shocked to learn that there were up to a hundred German divisions on the other side of the river in June 1941. How did this not alert our commanders? How could the divisions remain unnoticed?
We were also shocked by the unique film archives we discovered. For example, the march of German war prisoners through the streets of Moscow in 1944. It was as if I saw myself in this stock footage. As a boy, I became a witness to this unforgettable spectacle, watching what was happening on the Garden Ring (a circular ring road avenue around central Moscow – ed.). The footage taken by cameramen at the height of the war at the Central Children's Music School also speaks volumes. Looking back at our work, which lasted almost a decade (we showed the third, final episode, five years ago), I am sad to realize that only three persons of all those who we filmed in the series are still alive – the composers Rodion Shchedrin and Alexandra Pakhmutova and the poet Nikolai Dobronravov. I am glad that the actor Yuri Yakovlev took part in the film as well. His reading of the narrator’s text was very eloquent. He passed away just a year after we finished the film.
The footage is impressive. The year 1940. Moscow greets the pianists Emil Gilels and Yakov Flier who came back from a tour abroad. At the Bolshoi Theater, Wagner's ‘Valkyrie’ is staged by film-director Sergei Eisenstein. In the freshly released movie “The Fighter Pilots”, Mark Bernes performs Nikita Bogoslovsky's song “Our Beloved City Can Sleep in Peace!” Glinka's opera ‘Ivan Susanin’ is being prepared for production at the Staatsoper in Berlin. World-famous conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler conducts Beethoven's 9th Symphony ‘Embrace, millions!’ that got a very warm welcome by the leaders of the Reich that were among the public. However, time is rapidly bringing the world closer to a huge disaster.
Even a day before the start of the war, it might seem that nothing could go wrong. In Berlin on June 21, people relax in parks and cafes. The poster of the Kirov (Mariinsky) Opera and Ballet Theatre in St.Petersburg says that Wagner’s “Lohengrin” is to be performed on June 22, the day of which Germany and its allies will attack the Soviet Union along a frontline from the Arctic Circle to the Black Sea. However, everything collapsed in a flash, and the familiar world fell apart.
“The hunger was not so much terrible as the cold,” the world-famous Russian operatic soprano Galina Vishnevskaya would say later recalling the Nazi siege of Leningrad. She was accidentally saved from death by random people. The girl barely showed signs of life in the abandoned freezing apartment. The events of those days were emotionally told by Soviet and Russian composer Alexandra Pakhmutova, then still Alya, a student of the children's music school. The world-famous composer Rodion Shchedrin recalls how, as an 8-year-old boy, he ran away several times to the frontline from home. He believes that the muses should be silent when the guns are firing at full blast. Every time he was caught.
In the U.S., the majestic Arturo Toscanini conducts Dmitry Shostakovich’s famous Seventh Symphony. In Chicago, Sergei Rachmaninoff performs for the last time on February 12, 1943. In a few weeks, the world will bid the final farewell to the brilliant Russian composer. However, victory is coming soon. Andrei Eshpay, the composer and front-line soldier, remembers that the soldiers were surprised to find an intact organ on the site of a destroyed church in one of the Polish cities liberated by the Red Army. Intelligence Lieutenant Eshpay is asked to play something on it, and he performs... a Foxtrot. Perhaps, it was from there that the famous song “Muscovites” came to him many years later.
As underlined by Valentin Ternavsky, Soviet songs were very popular during the war. The names of its authors, Isaac Dunaevsky, Tikhon Khrennikov, Vasily Solovyov-Sedoy, Alexander Alexandrov, Matvey Blanter, Nikita Bogoslovsky and others were on everyone's lips. This was our view of that unique, cruel and terrible time. It was then that great musical works were created in spite of the war.
Now over to the year 1945. At the very beginning of it, the incredibly popular ‘Sun Valley Serenade’ is released starring Glenn Miller, a conductor, a musician and a pilot, and Sonja Henie, an Olympic figure skating champion. The film also contains historical footage showing the allies bent over the map cutting Berlin into four parts like a cake. Meanwhile, despite the fact that the guns were still firing, classes continued in full swing at the Central children's music school in Moscow. The narrator informs the audience that Russian music was banned in Germany during the war, but Wagner, Brahms, and Beethoven were often played in Russia.
The main idea of the film might be expressed by the statement of Maxim Gorky, who said “the artist is the ‘sensorium’ of his country, the voice of his era, and the herald of his people.” The movie trilogy suggests another idea that memory cannot be erased. Therefore, hope cannot be either. Our children and grandchildren will also have something to tell their descendants. So that not to forget…