|Pjotr Leschenko Gypsy Songs & Other Passions (CD)|
|Pjotr Konstantinowitsch Leschenko is the "King of Russian Tango". From the 1930s up to the 1950s no other Russian emigrant singer could be compared to him in popularity. Not only was he famous abroad, but also in Russia. though not a single recording of his music was officially released in his own country.
Leschenko - that meant a one man musical counter-revolution, unsuited to accompany the construction of communism. People listened to his songs, anyway. In secret. His records had to be smuggled in. They arrived from the Baltic states, from England and Germany, and they were bootlegged in Russia onto so-called "ribs" - used X-ray plates. Long before Pjotr Konstantinowitsch Leschenko died in a penal camp near Bucharest in July 1954, he had become a legend. A legend whose fascination remains unbroken.
It`s hard to penetrate the thicket of rumours and propaganda that has been growing about the person behind this voice. He was born on June 2, 1898 in the small village of Isaewa in South Russia, not far from Odessa, of an unmarried mother. His father was only speculated about. The most picturesque theory hints at the local big landowner.
With his stepfather, Leschenko moved to Kischinow in Bessarabia, a part of Russia since 1873. The teachers of the village school became aware of Pjotr`s gifted musicality, his voice and his perfect ear. He learned to play the guitar without taking lessons. The First World War turned him into an emigrant against his own will: Russia`s neighbour, Rumania, took advantage of the circumstances and swallowed up this part of Russia.In January 1918 Rumanian troops occupied Bessarabia, and overnight Pjotr Leschenko became a citizen of Rumania.
Never having learned a conventional profession he had to rely on his talents in music. Together with his Latvian wife Zinaida, a dancer, he performed a mixture of ballet and folklore. The couple caused a sensation and set off on tour: to Egypt, Palestine, Persia, Turkey. In Berlin they performed at the Russian Restaurant "Tari Bari" in Charlottenburg. But Leschenko`s breakthrough as a singer happened in Riga. Zinaida was expecting a baby, so he had to perform without her - and he started to sing: he sang songs of the Russian Gypsies, songs that everyone in the audience was quite familiar with, but he sang with a voice and an interpretation that caught on. And not only with his Russian audiences. A wave of enthusiasm swept Leschenko through Europe.He travelled through Yugoslavia, performed in Vienna, Paris and - following Lady Laudley`s wish - even in England.
In 1935 Leschenko reached the peak of his success. There was no need for him to travel around to find his audience - his fans came from afar to see him: they came to Bucharest to the "Leschenko", his place which was called the "Maxim of the East". Leschenko hired the finest musicians for his orchestra. The program always started with the Gypsy songs, but the second set presented a different Leschenko on stage: a man in tuxedo, with a white silk handkerchief. Then it was time for the tangos, most of which were exclusively composed for him.
The Second World War marked his decline. In August 1944 Rumania declared war on Germany, a short time later the Red Army moved into Bucharest. Their commanding officer, General Bulganin, became Leschenko`s patron. From then on Leschenko sang every night for the Red Army officers who felt most privileged finally to have the chance to see the living legend on stage. When Stalin began to draw in the reins in Moscow, Bulganin had to go. The "Leschenko", the restaurant of the "white emigrant", was put into liquidation. Pjotr Konstantinowitsch Leschenko fell under the wheels of sovietization: Stage bans, only a few concerts. He was arrested on stage in his Gypsy dress, and died on July 16, 1954 in the sick bay of a camp not far from Bucharest.
Russians all over the world kept him in mind - with love and devotion. And record collectors in Russia kept his original 78`s and all the bootlegs, which was dangerous in times of the Soviet regime.
Released by Oriente Musik, 1997, Format: CD
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