Learn about the history and discover the mosaics of this monument of world architecture
Part One - St. Petersburg Restaurants - Imperial Guards - The Court of the Tsar - Capital of the Cold - Russian Music
There will be a ball in the Winter Palace to-night.
We invite any who would see St. Petersburg in its snow and gilt to spend the day with us. And, later, climb the great stair and be lost in an enchanted world which, we are told, should not have been. None the less, there will be the ball to-night. We will see the flowers and uniforms, and hear the mazurka and the waltz. This very day that the snowflakes are falling. And, while they fall, Alexander II is Tsar. It is, at present, a winter morning early in 1868.
We choose that year because we would have it in a time of peace before the Russo-Turkish war, and in the era of the crinoline before Sedan. The Nihilists are not yet busy in the capital. And, for our purposes, we prefer this Tsar to his successor Alexander III, who cared little for ceremony. With Alexander II we touch the Russia of Nicholas I, his father. Much of what we will see has changed but little since the time of that Tsar's father, the mad Paul I, and has come down unaltered from the reign of Catherine the Great. So we will let it be. It is a January morning in 1868. The writer, or, if you like, the reader, is to be a disembodied guest who sees and is not seen, who goes everywhere. If this is agreed, we will worry no more about the classic unities, the conventions of when, and how, and where, but begin straightway.
The Court Runner - Shall we have Sterlet Soup?
Already, the Court runner has come round. A peculiarly dressed individual out of a pantomime or ballet who got down from a carriage, a messenger, a running footman, a skorokhod; as rare a being as a heyduck or an eunuch, only surviving, indeed, at the Russian court, and sent out on the morning of a ball to take the invitations. He has to drive in a carriage because the capital is too big for him to go on foot. It is a first taste of the world of artifice into which we are about to enter; but he came early in the morning and we did not see him. Tonight, the whole corps of skorokhods will be on duty. We leave their strange uniform till then, and are awake and breakfasting in a foreign Embassy, a private palace, or even the Winter Palace itself, any or all of them, as suits our purpose. And the snow is no longer falling. There is the typical pale green northern sky of winter, while below, sledges innumerable are drawn rapidly and noiselessly over the snow.
We will go for our luncheon to a restaurant, for the late morning has slipped by, doing nothing, and smoking long-tipped, yellow cigarettes. To Donon or Cubat: it does not matter which. This is to be a holiday for the writer and, we hope, the reader, too. Cubat, in point of accuracy, is not opened yet. It belongs to the 'eighties, the period of Alexander III; but Donon and Cubat are the famous restaurants of the capital, and in the food we order the national character will begin. First of all in the zakouska, or hors d'oeuvres. Fresh caviar; balik (sturgeon dried in the sun); raw smoked goose; and twenty, thirty, forty other things. With these we drink a glass of allasch (kummel), or of listofka, which is flavoured with the young leaves of the black currant. If feeling rich - and why not in St. Petersburg, in 1868! - we could follow this with sterlet soup from the Volga, which may cost as much as ten shillings a person; but we are content with riabchik, a kind of grouse or partridge, and as tender as its name. To drink with this there could be nothing, more delicious, even on a winter day, than malinovoi, or raspberry kvas. And, now, we can begin to wander.
Perhaps the first sensation of Russia came in the Russian train. After passports had been scrutinized at the frontier, and every bit of luggage, every book and letter looked at separately. But into the train, at last. It consists of half a dozen waggons of immense length. An Englishman who came here a couple of years ago, 1866, for the marriage of the Tsarewitch, describes it with enthusiasm.
A Crinoline in the Corridor- The Spire of the Admiralty - Young Ladies in Court Carriages
Entering by the middle you come into a small saloon with a table in the centre surrounded by sofas and divans. From one side of this saloon a passage, broad and high enough for a tall man or a lady in la crinoline to walk along without difficulty, leads into the private compartments. On the roof there is a sleeping saloon, to which you ascend by a winding stairway. Lamps are lit, the curtains drawn, a green baize table is fixed into the centre of the floor, wax candles are fastened at the corners. And presently, the train stops at a brilliantly lit station, with handsome arcades. Snow is falling. But there is half an hour for dinner. On one side is the samovar, in such contrast to the ham sandwich and the English pot of tea! Ducks and geese and venison, huge fishes and~ plump partridges, galantines, jellies and pud, dings; soups and joints for those who prefer hot meat to cold; stacks of bottles of French wines; and decanters of native liqueurs. The waiters, like those at Donon's, are dressed in long red linen coats. There is an icon on the wall. Peasant women offer slippers and embroidered scarves for sale. An old priest, with a white beard, walks up and down holding a gilt plate, on which you throw a kopeck. It is holy Russia. Russia of the starving and the millionaire! That was only yesterday. And it is still strange today.
In St. Petersburg. But the very air has character out of the immense open spaces. In what other town in the world could the fronts of three buildings only, of painted stucco, set end to end, be two,thirds of a mile in length! One building alone, the famous Admiralty, of which we know the spire from the back cloth in petroocbka, has a main facade four hundred and fifty yards long, while the side wings running down to the Neva are more than two hundred yards in extent. So much for officialdom, or bureaucracy. It has, at least, walls of gay colours and a gilded spire. More than this, the painted stucco is designed specially to look bright against the snow. We will return to that later. Character is more than plaster architecture. It can be built up out of words and cadences.
A Gypsy band is playing and the music, which is Russian with something added of their own, makes a wonderful vehicle in which to wander, a sledge or traineau, we could call it, sometimes slow, and again, furious and headlong, while we think of many things and, in effect, come up to them and see them with our eyes. All the time we hear phrases of the music so that, from now on, we breathe and taste and smell the Russian air. Not forgetting why we came here. In preparation for the fairy tale extravagance of where we go tonight. Wealth and luxury beyond belief, such as the world has seldom seen, while the snow falls outside, and in cellars, men who are sunk to the level of brutes and women all in rags, neither men nor women looking any more like human beings, all filthy, drink together at long deal tables, literally black with dirt. These contrasts: and little in between. Nothing that need bother us, for our subject is the two extremes.
Did you hear that? Listen to the shape of it! It must have come out of some low tavern. It has a fiery spirit in it. A drunken song. But not altogether. It is music which is loyal but, in the end, will not forgive. A brutal force which falls in its own way. But, in its own moment, generous and inspired.
And they play another tune which is sentimental and nostalgic, speaking of the troika and the birch trees. We see the pale green 'sky of winter, like that the high gilt needle of the Admiralty pricks into. For it brings us back into the town. For a moment, in imagination, we are in its open spaces in front of the Cathedral of St. Isaac, contemplating its granite monoliths dug out of the swamps of Finland; its pillars of lapis lazuli at the entrance; and the columns of malachite at the altar; but we need not enter. The mere sketch or impression is enough. Holy Russia does not interest us, at this moment.
Instead, we would sooner find ourselves in the Summer Garden, which is full of nursemaids and governesses, and little children dressed a la moujik, a year or two, precisely, after the liberation of the serfs. An Englishman who came to St. Petersburg thirty years earlier, in 1838, was witness of a curious scene which, somehow, connects itself with the sight of these children playing in the Summer Garden. 'Opposite to the Admiralty, in the open place, large wooden booths had been erected for theatrical and other exhibitions, and in front of the booths were what are called Katchellies, namely, swings and merry-go-rounds. On the three last days there was a carriage promenade in front of the Katchellies; and in the throng a string of twenty coaches-and-six, followed by six outriders, was conspicuous. The carriages were plain and neat, painted green, and all exactly alike, with handsome powerful horses, equipped in heavy German harness, and the coachmen, postillions, footmen, and outriders, dressed in scarlet great coats with capes, cocked hats, leather breeches, and jack boots. These were court equipages, and each carriage contained six young ladies belonging to the public institutions or schools at St. Petersburg under the patron, age of the Tsarina, who annually bestows this indulgence upon the pupils.' This annual custom was abolished when that Empress died, but the proof that it had been is the St. Petersburg we want. We are, immediately, in the reign of Nicholas I. And, indeed, our whole purpose is to see that, and the time of Catherine the Great, from a fixed point in the reign of Alexander II.
Many of these young girls will have come from the Smolny convent, or Institution des Demoiselles Nobles, a beautiful rococo building with a high belfry, by Count Rastrelli, a name with which we must become familiar, for he was architect, originally, both of the Winter Palace and Tsarskoe Selo. But that, also, is a matter that can stand. The picture of those young girls driving in Court carriages past the swings and merry-go-rounds, and of the nurses and governesses, and children dressed as moujiks, is more Russian than the Venetian, Count Rastrelli. How wonderful the popular music will have been! We hear the hurdy-gurdy and the organ, fanfares on bugles, and the rolling of a drum. That is after Easter, every year. But now, the open place is empty. But not of persons. There is a crowd of people hurrying to and fro, nearly every man in uniform, but most of them officials with a satchel in their bands. Even the poorest may wear a military cap, the relic of their conscript days, which, with their round and bearded heads, their high cheek bones and their hair falling over their faces just like thatch, makes them resemble the waxwork, figure of - is it Burke or Hare! - at Madame Tussaud's. And, of course, there are the droshky, or rather, sledge drivers, in long blue caftans and black, low, crowned hats, bearded like the rest, but more robust, for, at least, they earn a living and do not walk the streets and crowd the cellars.
We may fancy we hear in all this the ghosts of music of the fair. The wheezing organ, the bugle and the drum. But come back to the Summer Garden! There could be no better place in which to resume the capital and get its feeling. It runs beside the Neva. The first scene of "Pique Dame", Tchaikowsky's opera to a play by Pushkin, is laid in the Summer Garden with a chorus of nursemaids and governesses and young men of the capital, who are taking the spring air. And it follows our pattern. In the second act there is a ball.
But we will read on. "The last and gayest of the promenades took place the day before yesterday. It was attended by the court, and all the fashionable world. Every vehicle in St. Petersburg was placed in requisition. All the carriages were obliged to pass down our street, in order to enter the Admiralty place. Soon after six o'clock, the officers of the regiment of Gardes a cheval, who had been gradually assembling, drew up under our windows in scarlet uniforms, waiting to escort the Emperor, who in the course of half an hour drove up in a plain open carriage with a pair of horses, accompanied by his eldest son. They stopped opposite to us, threw off their cloaks, and appeared in the same uniform as the officers in attendance; an aide-de-camp brought the Emperor his horse, which he mounted, and his son following his example, he saluted right and left, and rode on, followed by the Gardes a cheval. As they disappeared under the arch of the Etat Major, the Empress with her three daughters turned into the street, at the other end, and passed down it in a hand, some open carriage-and-four, with two postillions, in blue-and-silver jackets, and velvet caps, and escorted by a party of officers of the Chevaliers Gardes.'
Chevaliers Gardes - Wearers of the Breastpalate - The Armoured Horsemen
The Gardes a cheval and their rivals, the Chevaliers Gardes! But perhaps the mind and physiognomy of Nicholas I, for it was he, are apparent in his favourite uniform. He was continually portrayed in this; whether by the English portrait painter Dawe, who spent his life at the Russian court, or in other paintings, and even upon porcelain from the Imperial manufactory. To these resplendent uniforms of the Chevaliers Gardes and the Gardes a cheval there attaches more than a little interest. It would take a better military historian than the. present writer to decide which was the first of the sovereigns of Europe, after the Napoleonic wars, to put his heavy cavalry, or personal bodyguard, into breastplates of polished steel. Nothing of the kind had been worn since the wars of Louis XIV, and they were an anachronism, then. It may have been the sartorial genius of the Prince Regent, but the proposal was sanctioned by the Duke of Wellington, and the necessary armourers' shops fitted up and set to work. This readiness to embark upon so novel and original an idea makes it likely that it was no invention but a copy of some fashion from abroad. None of the Garde Imperiale of Napoleon wore breastplates. We would suggest, therefore, that it came from Russia.
The question forms a curious chapter in the history of taste. What was the intention? That they were mediaeval paladins, or heroes from the Trojan wars? Russia is no land of Gothic, and this may have been the Muscovite attempt at that. In the result, these armoured horsemen are the grafting of mediaevalism, of the sham Gothic of 182o, upon the classicism of the time. They form a hybrid, but one which, like many cross-breedings, had an individuality ofits own. Later accounts of ceremonies in Russia often speak of these two regiments, with the gold or silver double eagles in their helms, as Wagnerian knights, but this, again, argues a change of taste. The details of the uniforms, too, had been slightly modified by then. Our argument is that it was a Russian whim and one of the typical extravagancies of Russian luxury. In the early years of Nicholas I the Chevaliers Gardes wore the black crested horsetail helms, like those of our Life Guards of the day, but these were soon altered to the eagle helm, about the same time that the uniform of our Life Guard and Horse Guards Blue took on the modified form we know.
It is idle, but interesting, to calculate the population of armoured horsemen in mid-nineteenth century Europe. Two British regiments: two Russian: two similar regiments in the Prussian Guard: the Pope's Guardia Nobile: the Sardinian Guardia del Re: the Cuirassiers and Cent Gardes of Napoleon III: the total is considerable, but we hope to have proved that it was Russian by invention. Alexander may have begun it: but it was Nicholas, the autocrat or oligarch, who made it usual and fixed the type.
An Empty Tomb - The Hermit Tsar - Apollo and the Macassar Oil
Nicholas I, to whom the aspect of the capital is due. It reflects his classical and precise mind, the most perfect of autocrats there has ever been. In some ways, as historians have said, more remarkable than any ruler of his time. But it needed more than Nicholas to give character to the town. His architects, who were Russian for the first time, designed the classical facades, with the difference of the bright colours they were painted, while the ultra-conservatism of the Tsar imprisoned, as it were, the national characteristics and passed them on. Nicholas, we would remind ourselves, was third son of the mad Paul I. Born in 1796, in the year that Catherine died, he took no part in politics during the reign of his eldest brother, Alexander I, but was occupied entirely with his military duties. When Alexander died mysteriously at Taganrog in Southern Russia, in 1825, it was supposed that his second brother, Constantine, would succeed him. Did Alexander really die; or was his journey with its curious circum, stances to a remote part of his dominions a ruse by which he sought to disappear from the world? It is Well known that his tomb in St. Petersburg is empty. We will hot enter, here, into conjecture, one way or the other. Some say that he retired to Mount Athos; or into a convent in the Holy Land. Another story is that an aged hermit, who in some obscure way was protected by authority, and who used to ramble of the great personages he had known half a century before, was the Tsar Alexander I. If it was Alexander, he died as the staretz Theodore Kousmitch, near Tomsk in Siberia, in February 1864. All this may have been in order that he should expiate his connivance in the murder of his father, Paul I, in 1801.
On the death of Alexander, for this must be assumed in history, Constantine did not succeed him. He had signed a document abdicating all his claims. This prince, who was sixteen years older than Nicholas, born in the full glory of the reign of Catherine the Great, had been given a name in, tended to be prophetic of his destiny. Alexander, the eldest brother, would be Tsar; Constantine, the restored Basileus of a Byzantine Empire. The favourite Potemkin, who had conquered the Crimea and the Chersonese, and been created Prince of the Tauride, was destined for a kingdom of Dacia, compound of Wallachia and Moldavia. Such were the schemes of Catherine the Great. But we return to 1825. On the death of his brother, Constantine, as we have said, renounced the Russian throne, and retired with his Polish wife to his command at Warsaw. Nicholas I became Tsar; and had immediately to quell a military insurrection. We need only add, for historical completion, that he reigned till 1855 and died, broken hearted, during the Crimean War, being succeeded by his son, Alexander II.
Nicholas was handsome, like Alexander I, and of the great height that was conspicuous in the Romanov family up to Nicholas II, and indeed in most of the figures in Russian history until Stalin and Lenin are reached. The Marquis de Custine says of him: 'Un tel homme ne peut etrejuge'd'apre's la mesure qu'on applique aux hommes ordinaires son front superbe, ses traits qui tiennent de I'Apollon et de Jupiter.' Another writer remarks of Nicholas that his personal grandeur of stature and aspect was beyond description. He added to his classical features, noticed by all contemporaries, by dressing his hair with Macassar oil, after the manner of an antique bust. His favourite uniform, we note, was that of the Gardes 'a cheval, one of the two regiments of Horse Guards to whom we were introduced by the English traveller, a moment or two ago. And, as though to bring that paragraph to life, in a square behind the Admiralty there stands the equestrian statue of Nicholas in the uniform of the Horse Guards, upon a pedestal of granite, while the four emblematic figures at the corners are cast from the features of the Tsarina and her three daughters, whom we saw driving past the Admit, airy in a handsome open carriage. Of his military tastes there is much in evidence. In the Alexander Palace, built by Catherine for her grandson Alexander in the park at Tsarskoe Selo, but a favourite residence of Nicholas, there are glass cases containing models of the different regiments of cavalry, carried out, as to man and horse, with utmost accuracy and beauty. Other rooms have military pictures of soldiers in stiff squares, like parterres, works of that German or Viennese school of the 'thirties and 'forties which, in its naivete, is about the last unexplored province in the continent of paint, ing. Bright sunshine, as of a day in early spring, hides no detail of those wooden figures.
The Rostral Column - The Kitai Gorod -Boucher and Gilded Coach - Count Rastrelli
Walking on a little further you would find, strange ghosts, a Chinese village of twenty-four houses perched on artificial rocks or scrolls, their eaves hung with bells, inhabited by gardeners and their families, with Chinese bridges criss-crossing a canal; a Chinese tower with a high pole in front of it rigged like the mast of a frigate; a Gothic building called the Admiralty; a Dutch and a Swiss dairy; a Turkish kiosque; a summer house in the form of an Ionic colonnade supporting a hanging garden (this building is by Charles Cameron and the Emperor often dined here in the summer); triumphal arches; rostral columns; a pavilion where the Grand Duchesses used to feed their swans; a lake with a fleet of pygmy boats of all descriptions manned by sailors of the Imperial Guard - and, not yet, the Palace. But traces, at least, of the six hundred gardeners.
What is there particularly Russian in all this? The Chinese village; the rostral column; the feeding of the swans. And we may even think we know three generations in the succession of these words. As to the Chinese village, no one but an Elizabeth or a Catherine would have been fanciful upon such a scale as this. It is in the taste, at least, of Elizabeth. The rostral column, on the other hand, is typical of Catherine. And we get, in this, the difference in their two reigns. China, with its land connection through distant Siberia to Russia, means another thing to Russians to what it does with us. If Great Britain was connected by land with India, however many thousand miles away, we would have another conception of that land of elephant and tiger in the knowledge that waves of invasion had come to us direct from India, itself, and that, in proverb, we were partly Indian in origin.
Was not part of Moscow, in the centre of that city, called the Kitai Gorod, or Chinese Town? It was a mere name, having nothing celestial about it, unless the cathedral of St. Basil, with its many domes, each of different colour and design, is so fantastic that it could be called Chinese. The be, ginning of China was the land's end of Russia, reached by horse, or upon foot, but not by sea. Upon state occasions the Empress Elizabeth was preceded in her gilded coach by two horsemen of her body, guard, one a Chinese cavalier, and the other wearing European armour and mounted on a Kirghiz horse. This afternoon, in January 1868, and perhaps now, we could go to the Museum of Imperial carriages and see some carnival sledges of fantastic form. One is a group of the dragon and St. George; another has a seat like a peepshow box carried by a show, man. A figure in the dress of a harlequin is placed in the front; and another, in the costume of a Levantine, between him and the driver. We would see phaetons, caliches, and vis-a-vis, some of them with painted panels by Gr or Blucher, the travelling and town equipages on the lower floor, and gala coaches and carriages upstairs. We would be shown, too, if in the mood, the gilded harness for the horses, and state liveries for eight hundred men. Downstairs, in the Imperial Stables, are three hundred horses and half that number more for saddle horses.
We have said that the rostral column was characteristic of Catherine the Great. She began her reign in the prevailing taste of the Empress Elizabeth, her mother-in-law, daughter of the Tsar Peter and, like her father, giant and barbarian in her life and works. But Catherine was only Russian by adoption, though, like many converts, that much more genuine in the faith she had embraced. Rastrelli, or his contemporaries, belonged to an older generation, or were dead. Catherine employed, as architects, Quarenghi or Cameron, and her buildings and their details were classical in the Russian manner. Trophies, triumphal arches, rostral columns, were her rage. The pavilion where the Grand Duchesses came to feed their swans, if we add to it a weeping willow, needs no further signature of reign or time. It belongs to an epoch when music and poetry were written, but the other arts were dead. Not so long ago, for remember this is 1868!
Now we are at Tsarskoe Selo we should, at least, come up to the empty palace, for it is winter, and look through the gilded windows. An earlier traveller, whom we may envy, left the capital at sun, rise and came here by sledge. All round, in every direction, there are pavilions and little palaces by Charles Cameron, Quarenghi, Menelas and Rossi; but come nearer! A facade, twelve hundred feet in length, and stained green and white and yellow,, climbs out of the snow. It has three storeys. The front is broken by three advancing portions, and in the middle section we can count three rows of fifteen windows. The other two advancing portions, to right and left, contain one hundred large windows, in each direction, divided by caryatids upon the ground floor, and by detached Corinthian columns and pilasters on the first storey and the attic. The roof is crowded with statues and with vases. Once, every statue, every pedestal, every capital, all the vases and ornaments, were gilt. Now, they are stained yellow. The roof is gabled, like that of the Tuileries. In front of this facade there are two long semi-circular wings. On the garden side, the other front of the palace is less ornamented and gives on to a terrace and a parterre. The gardens extend in that direction for at least four miles. Internally, the whole of this immense line of building forms but one uninterrupted suite of rooms, upon two floors, and in double or parallel lines, the projecting portions of the front being intended only to give greater scale to the more important of the state apartments.
Rastrelli was architect of this fantastic building. Its peculiar note is struck at the outset by the colouring of the external walls, a concession to barbarian taste, which was not content with brick or stone. The special purpose was against the monotony of snow, but it is as Russian in invention as the cathedral of St. Basil and its coloured domes. From this are descended the painted facades of the Admiralty and of so many buildings in St. Petersburg of the time of Nicholas I. This hybrid Italian has become the vernacular of Russia; of foreign instigation, but as typical of Russia as the Russian cuisine or the classical ballets of Petipa.
The Amber Room - Golden Pheasants - Albino Horses - Mamelukes of the Guard
The builder of Tsarskoe Selo was the Empress Elizabeth. Many of the rooms arc in the rococo of her, period, with the Russian flavour. A profusion of gilding, barbarian in its extravagance, doors and ceilings that arc beautiful and splendid. A room of which the entire panelling is formed of amber, in homage to the Baltic and its sandy shores; and a hall of lapis lazuli with a parquet of ebony inlaid with wreaths of mother,of pearl. A change in taste came with the arrival of Charles Cameron, an architect who was recommended to Catherine by his publication of a book of measured drawings of classical remains, another Adam, or James Wyatt, a reputed Jacobite, but little or nothing is yet known of him. At his first coming he was set to work by Catherine with the simplest materials. The bedroom of the Empress is often quoted because of its walls of porcelain and Pilasters of violet glass. These latter are no more than panels of glass laid over velvet of that colour, due, probably, to a sketch or a mere suggestion from Cameron and appealing to Catherine because of its cleverness and as a joke or comment upon the extravagance of her other schemes. Later, he was allowed more expensive materials, and in addition to building, designed furniture of all descriptions and details that were as fine as jewellers' or goldsmiths' work. It can only be presumed that he found, ready for him, whole studios of craftsmen in their different branches. The Italian Quarenghi was his contemporary, working in an orthodox Palladian style, somehow acclimatized to St. Petersburg. He was more purely an architect, not a for, gotten genius like Cameron, but an Italian who returned home to die, well known and eulogized in Bergamo, his native town. Cameron worked extensively at Pavlovsk, too, where the colonnade must be his masterpiece. Much of his furniture remains in these two palaces, chairs and settees being upholstered with Lyon silk woven specially for the barbarian North by Philippe Lassalle and other craftsmen, with such patterns, in one instance, as a design of silver and gold pheasants, bright as new. Every technical intricacy of process is employed upon these silks and, perhaps, none but the court of Russia would have countenanced their cost.
What we would have of Tsarskoe Selo, or the other palaces, is no more details but a confusion of their charms. The sensation of sleeping on a summer night with this fantastic world around one. Or their haunted loneliness upon a winter day; today, for instance, when the Court is in St. Petersburg and preparing for the ball tonight. What of Gatchina, or Oranienbaum, of Pavlovsk, Peterhof, or the many smaller palaces? There is no time for these. Whom would we prefer to see? Zoritch, the favourite of Catherine, by birth a Croat or a Bosnian, in his hussar uniform of scarlet and silver, ablaze with diamond orders? One or other of the prime favourites in their day, or on their night, of splendour? But we will not be drawn from one century into another.
We would sooner attend a military review. In the camp at Krasnoe Selo: or in the Champ de Mars: it does not matter which. At Krasnoe Selo the Tsar reviews the Imperial Guard in August and the Tsarina and her ladies attend in white dresses with white bouquets in their hands. She arrives on the parade ground in a carriage drawn by eight albino horses with pink eyes. At the Champ de Mars it could be this afternoon, or any other day. For we come back again and again to the capital, and every moment away from it is time lost of our few hours before the ball tonight. Because of that, as on other festivals, there is, most certainly, a review today. Now, at this moment, before it grows dark at halfpast three. In the Champ de Mars, beside the Neva and the Summer Garden, watched by the children's nurses in their high kokoshniks. But why not in the great square, in front of the Winter Palace? Here, reviews were held while the Emperors dared risk assassination.
We hear bands of military music marching to the parade along the granite quays, coming from the barracks of the Preobrajenski regiment. Soon, martial music can be heard from other directions, giving an indescribable excitement to this winter afternoon. Forty thousand men of the Russian Imperial Guard are to be reviewed. Salvos of guns are firing from the fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul, across the Neva. We reach the square in time to see the troops converging and high officers arrive, some in sledges drawn by splendid horses, others in closed carriages 'along the snow. On alighting, they throw off their cloaks, exhibiting rows of ribbons, stars and decorations over uniforms of green, and white, and scarlet.
The regiment of the Chevaliers Gardes rides forth at this moment from the portico of their Manege - or riding school, which is a classical building by Quarenghi, mounted on bay horses, dressed in their white uniforms, with black horsetail helmets and cui, rasses, carrying the Persian standards, and preceded by an entire band of trumpeters. They proceed at the peculiar slowness of a horse's walking pace, and take up their station. Opposite to them, the Gardes a cheval in scarlet uniforms are assembling.
The Tsar, who rides out from the central archway of the palace with a great suite of officers in attendance, is received with three tremendous roulades of the trumpets and the drums. The drums beat again while he gallops down the line, his horse being already covered with foam. He then mounts a fresh charger and rides through the ranks by the side of the Tsarina's carriage-and-four which, after this, is drawn up before the centre of the line. The band of each regiment stations itself opposite the Emperor, and the march past begins. The curiosity of this performance is that you hear the Tsar's voice as each battalion goes past. He makes some remark to them: 'Well marched', or 'Very good', and the entire battalion shouts a reply. The cavalry come first, preceded only by the Tsar's personal bodyguard, mounted Circassians or Mamelukes of the Guard, some armed with carbines and some with bows and arrows. Scarlet or white predominate in their uniform, but each is dressed according to the fashion of his country. They are divided into Leszghines or Tcherkesses, in respect of Circassia or the Trans-caucasus, and are all Circassian gentlemen or native princes, including, now, two sons of the famous Schamyl, in white caftans and golden belts with high white lambskin caps.
The Russian Imperil Hymn - Cavalry Bands - Hourse Grenadiers - Hussars
The Gardes a cheval and the Chevaliers Gardes come next: huge men, picked for their height: the Gardes a cheval in immense jackboots and helmets that sparkle like steel, surmounted by double-headed gilded eagles, their gilt breastplates fastened over their snow-white tunics. As each battalion, marching past, comes to the salute, its regimental band immediately opposite the Tsar, bursts afresh into a frenzied rendering of the Russian national anthem, Boje Tsar Khrani. This tune was composed for Nicholas I by Prince Lvov. Apart from the Marseillaise, there is no patriotic air that is so stirring and none that, in a few bars, paints a whole country and a people. In this, it is equal to the immortal Glinka. The reiteration of this noble anthem, twenty or thirty times over, each time with different instruments, never twice alike, thrills and intoxicates like nothing else. It is the expression of thi s nation of eighty million persons. Unlike the Marseillaise, this tune does not flag towards the middle; and we could contrast the recovery of that, with its 'aux armes' of fanfares and of trumpets, to its magnificent peroration, with the clashing and maddened cymbals breaking in, half way through, and carrying this other intoxication to its triumphant end. That it is a sort of drug or stimulant given to the troops as they come past, no one can doubt. It bursts forth, again and again, with sublime effect, and that clension or stroke of genius towards the end. No one who saw a military review in the old Imperial days can ever forget this.
After the Horse Guards come four regiments of Cuirassiers, a portion of each regiment being equipped as Lancers. Their bands, like all cavalry bands, are shrill and high. These four regiments are distinguished by their different colourings and facings: black breastplates, or steel breastplates: tunics that are blue or red, or green or white. After them, a superb train of Horse Artillery, drawing field guns that shine like telescopes or steel instruments, the caissons painted a light green colour, and a pair of soldiers seated, back to back, on each. But, in the impossibility of giving each regiment enough attention as it goes past, we discuss them statically, as though they stood quite still. In this manner we come to the regiment of Horse Grenadiers, mounted on white horses, and have- time to consider this anomaly. For a few years in the reign of George IV our own regiment of the Horse Guards Blue wore steel breastplates, and not a helm, but a huge bear-skin of immense height, and great gauntlets and swords of exaggerated length, like those of an imaginary Crusader. This costume, if striking, must have been most cumbersome, to judge from con, temporary engravings. In fact, it was so awkward that it was soon discontinued. The bearskin is, of course, entirely Russian in conception. But this sub, variety, for we are led to speak of these freaks of militarism as though they were curious flowers or birds, had an echo in Belgium, as well, where part of the Royal Grenadiers were mounted, in the reigns of Leopold I and Leopold II. They were allowed to lapse in time. However, just before the present war, when King Leopold III drove in state to the opening of the exhibition in Liege, he was escorted by Horse Grenadiers, the last date, we may be certain, of their appearance in the modern world. The grenadier is so typically an infantryman that it is peculiar to see him mounted; but their military band, at least, has heavy brass instruments and not merely bugles and trumpets and kettledrums, while the sappers of this regiment, who are bearded giants, beside the red trousers, blue tunics and red epaulettes, wear the long white leather aprons of their office and carry the pickaxe and the shovel.
There are Hussars of the Guard, in scarlet uniforms and mounted upon greys, a Hungarian invention of the eighteenth century, in descent from the Pandours and irregular levies of the Turkish frontier, the hussar uniform, indeed, being an adaptation, conscious or unconscious, of the Magyar peasant costume. The Hungarian magnates had their heyducks, or bodyguards, dressed like that. After the hussar regiments were formed by Charles VI and Maria Theresa, the custom spread all over Europe, and to Russia.'
In the eighteenth century no other body of men wore whiskers or moustaches. For this, alone, they were conspicuous in an age of powdered hair. The cult of the hussar was at its height in Germany, of which the Black Brunswickers or Death's Head Hussars are an example; while, during the reign of Frederick the Great, there were twenty-five hussar regiments in the Prussian army, more than one contemporary work upon. military costume being given up to the minute delineation of their differences in colour, their dolmans or slung jackets, and their exceptionally high, cylindrical, hussar caps, a detail which was characteristic of that time, but had be, come much shortened by 1868. Here before us, in the square of the Winter Palace, we have three hussar regiments; the scarlet, whom we mentioned, whose officers have silver facings to their uniforms, and two others. One of them is the Heir Apparent's own regiment, led by the giant Tsarewitch in person; white hussars, in white dolmans with gold facings. This prince, six foot five inches tall and strong in proportion, the future Alexander III, who became Tsar upon the assassination of his father in 1881, was last of the huge Romanovs. It is probably true to say that it was the physical height and strength of these giant men, from Alexander I, that supported the Russian monarchy through the nineteenth century until the accession of the puny Nicholas II. This Tsarewitch, from his tremendous stature, made a great impression on all who saw him. Igor Stravinsky describes him, in an open letter discussing the Sleeping Beauty of Tchaikowsky: 'In the first place it is a personal joy, for this work appears to me as the most authentic expression of that period of Russian life which we call the Peters, burg period, and which is stamped upon my memory with the moving vision of the Imperial sleighs of Alexander III, the Giant Emperor and his giant coachman...' This is the Tsarewitch whom we see marching past at the head of his own regiment of white hussars. They are followed by dragoons of Sversk and Pereiaslav, and by a regiment of Uhlans or lancers in red uniforms, wearing the lancer's cap or czapska, which is in sign of Polish origin.
The Preobrajenski Regiment - Fantasia of Cossacks- End of the Review
So much for the cavalry. The infantry are, mostly, grey coated, as in the Crimean war, and wear the bachlik, one of the typical features of Russian costume, worn, even, by the ancient Scythians, as can be seen on the silver vases in the Hermitage, a grey hood with tails crossed upon the breast like belts and put over the head at night in the snow and wind of a Russian winter. Several regiments of grenadiers come first, the leading company of each breaking into a hoarse cheer as it passes by the Tsar. It is not good marching: not to be compared to our Brigade of Guards, but has a servile, grey monotony and the sense of limitless numbers, if needed, for the slaughter. Another regiment runs past, at the double; but, in all the regiments of grenadiers, so difficult to know one from another, there is, to the foreigner, something typically Russian in the shaggy shape of their bearskins, and in the knowledge that this is, particularly, a Russian invention, coming, we would suppose, from the first bear hunters in the Urals. There are the Guards of Finland, who are light infantry or tirailleurs; and the Lithuanian and Volhynian Guard, in the Kepis of the rifleman or chasseurs i pied, in uniforms of shadowy blue as though for fighting in their native woods. Some of the finer infantry are kept till last. They are the Preobrajenski, or regiment of the Transfiguration; a Praetorian Guard of grenadiers for they have the right of entry, at all times, into the Winter Palace. These bearded men have the look of veterans of 1812. Last of all come the Pavlovski, one of the oddest of the freaks of militarism, for they are a snub-nosed regiment, founded by the mad Paul I, and confined to those who reproduced his Kalmuck features. Moreover, of all regiments in the Russian army, they alone still wore the hat, like a half sugar loaf, of the Russian grenadiers of the time of Frederick William I, before the bearskin became the fashion, this hat being of copper, embossed in front with the Russian double eagle, and absolutely of another century in type and style. It is easy, in seeing them, to picture the dreadful military punishment in the Russian army of running the gauntlet, or passing between the halberds, as it was called in mitigation. They pass by with a hoarse roar, and a curious hollow sound upon the snow, to the dying notes of their tremendous martial band.
The review ends with a furious charge of Cossacks, the square being nearly empty, for the other troops had marched to their different barracks. It is led by the Cossacks of the Guard in their scarlet cafians brandishing their swords, which, with the curved blades, flash like silver. The officers of the Cossack Guard, could we note them in detail, have golden belts and bandoliers. No other Cossacks take part, except the Ataman Cossacks, in sapphire blue uniforms, who are one of the crack regiments of Russia. They are the special regiment of the Tsar, witch, for both Alexander II, and the future Alexander III, wore the dress of Cossack Ataman at every opportunity, as Nicholas I favoured that of the Gardes a cheval. Alexander III, in fact, was en cosaque all his life. The fantasia ends with a flourish and a fusillade; and when the last squadron has gone by the Tsar turns his horse, and with the Tsarewitch following him, rides slowly of the square, under the great archway of the Winter Palace. Once more the snow has begun to fall.
Capital of the Cold - Country Estates - Nevski Prospect - Childen of the Rich
This extraordinary city sparkles, now, with a myriad lights. They have not waited for the winter sun to set. The display of military pomp and pageantry we have just witnessed could be an hallucination, were it not that, as we walk away, the facade of the Winter Palace stretches for nearly half a mile along the Neva, that frozen river, till we reach the still vaster Admiralty, and passing under the tropheal arch of the Etat Major, third of these gigantic buildings, turn a corner, and are in a moment in the Nevski Prospekt. At this point the shops have not begun. From afar, once again, come the sounds of a military band. But they have no connection, any more, with actuality: they are intangible forms, wild strange fancies, built up, none the less, from solid fact, for they are snatches of martial music, real or imaginary. What happens to the poor in this enormous city? It is the town of Dives and Lazarus: of palaces and filthy cellars. Not a face, in those, that was not bleared and blotched and blurred by drink. The walls are slimy wet with breath. Men and women are huddled together on the wooden benches. There are degrees, descending steps of poverty, even here. If you would have a hideous vision, look lower, upon a hundred men and women dressed in rags, most of them with bruised faces, too sunk to speak, intent only to keep life in them and not be put into the ice,cold ground. The huge machine of government grinds round over their beads. That military pomp is the toy or plaything of an autocrat. St. Petersburg is but for those who know this contrast, and can take pleasure in it. There are sixty, eighty, a hundred thousand, here, who live in cellars and have not enough to eat. There is equal poverty elsewhere but not such cold. This is the prime difference. Across the Baltic, in Stockholm, it was never the same, because the dregs of a nation of eighty millions did not pour into the capital and choke the cellars. This is a huge ramshackle empire, organized for wealth and loyalty, with a religion that had been sufficient in the days of simple faith, and, it could be called, a veneer of malachite or lapis lazuli that did not conceal the sordid brickwork just below. The priests with their long hair and golden robes had begun to lose their magic. A chapter to itself could be written on their golden vestments and the ritual and symbolism attached to them. They were a race apart, with hair flowing over their shoulders and beards of Assyrian cut; but in the modern slum world of overpopulation they had become ridiculous. The eternal Lazarus was turning questions in his soul. And it is known to all how he has answered them. What he destroyed was not wicked, but had outlived its day. But the circumstances are more extraordinary than in any other city in the world because of the unmeasured wealth that had accumulated to the Crown. It was as though the Sleeping Beauty had slept undisturbed into our times. That contradiction makes our theme; but it is more sudden and violent when we ignore its dangers. In the year we have chosen she was but turning in her sleep.
The scene becomes more and more of an hallucination. Owing to the gliding sledges and the utter silence of the snow. It is the fashionable hour. Private sledges with two or three horses harnessed abreast and liveried footmen on the step behind glide past, their Russian character apparent so this could not be New York or Montreal, then cities of the snow in winter, from the high boop over the horses' heads, like the kokoshnik, but not hung with sleigh bells, for that is characteristic only of the Russian countryside, not of the capital, where the sleighs pass silent as a gondola. To a Western mind this scene has its direct associations with wooden houses and little towns. It is not to be expected in a city of a million souls. These are Imperial snows, not peasant scenes in a Flemish or Burgundian winter. They are Imperial, if the waters of the Bosphorus ever lost their shadows of the lattice and the caique, and are not for ever haunted. St. Petersburg can be nothing else than the ghosts of its own history. Inside those sledges there are women in crinolines, wrapped in Russian furs, sables, bearskins, and the then rare silver fox, and who,tonight, will be wearing jewels that no other Court can show. When we admit that they were born a hundred years ago, or more, from 1941, we have a vision of country houses lost, or divided from us, in an immensity of time, and now gone for ever, as though they were the empty shell of some appalling crime. These, or some of them, may be the young girls who drove past the swings and merry-go-rounds on that spring evening. Their children ride with them in the sleighs. Of whom, in some obscure corner, there could be one alive today who would remember more than other things such winter afternoons and their contrasts, made sensible today. The warmth and luxury in what, for the rich, was little else than a fairyland, and the pathos of that sense of protection which a child feels from its mother or the person it loves, and who now, in recollection, has been dead for so long a time that it was in another existence, so much has life altered. But, here, it is impossible not to enlarge upon this moment, for, after all, there must be many persons living who had Re experiences for all those years, from 1868 until the last winter, when disaster came. We keep, nevertheless, to our appointed year in order to see this at a time when none doubted that it could continue.
It takes us in early spring, after the snows have melted, to estates where the peasants are still in serfdom. Lilacs are in blossom, and nostalgia is ever present, being woven into the web or tissue of Russian life, so that misfortune would come if it were ever away for long. The landowners had large families and lived in the patriarchal way, their amount of the national temperament being proved in the number of them possessed of amateur talent. Could we, for instance, know details of the lives of many of the officers in the military review today, drawn entirely, as they were, from the landowning classes, we would find that an inordinate proportion of them were musicians, were amateur actors, or could draw or paint, but this, unexpectedly, was their weakness, and the sign that their class was doomed. Among their whole number there would be hardly a talent that could support itself It was the proof that they had begun to doubt themselves. The legend that the Russians were artistic was the sign that their great power was slipping from their hands. No longer boyars, like their forbears, but drawing, room pianists, and everything that had been forceful in them gone to the ineffectual and the amateur. At the same time that the peasants lost their serfdom the richer classes found themselves with no excuse. The whole structure was an anomaly in the modern world. And its surfaces were so flattering, if you did not look beneath them into the damp cellars where the starving lived and died.
In the Nevski Prospekt the spectacle is such as could not be imagined by those who have not seen it. A street three miles long and leading from the Champs Elyees to Whitechapel or Mile End Road. Down at the far end, which tails off as the crow flies, towards Moscow, the buildings, the people, and even the colour of the sky are already Asiatic, in the extent to which that word means wars and plagues and barbarian invasions. The first suburbs of another and an endless world, all plains and distance. Churches and synagogues, in plenty, help this illusion by their tawdry architecture. It could be thus all the way from Petersburg to Peking. In the other direction, towards the Neva, we begin to pass great porticos and palaces. And the colonnade of the Kazan cathedral, a semicircle of columns, bar, barian echo of the Roman travertine, but which, like the spire of the Admiralty, is in sign of St. Petersburg. The painted shop signs, for those who cannot read, have given place to gilt lettering, dressmakers, jewellers, hairdressers. In one window the latest crinolines from Paris are displayed; or hung up in bunches like bright bird cages above the doors, all in the flaring gaslight as we glide past over the snows. Cakes and sweets in the confectioner's windows, especially at Elliseiv's, are like a childhood's dream. We pass by a confiserie of which the sign or emblem is a little shepherd girl. The windows are stacked with barley sugar, in stooks; and pyramids of twisted pillars, while all the fantasy of a Gallic mind, in exile, shows itself in chocolates that are shaped like marennes or portugaises of the sandy flats, ranged upon green paper, ready for sale, in the wicker baskets of the oystermen; in white hens' eggs packed in miniature wooden crates, whole and unbroken, save for an invisible perforation through which liquid chocolate has been blown in to load and fill the shells; in chocolates flecked with gold leaf, sweets in infinity flavoured with all fruits; and dragees of as many colours; as there are court ladies in The Sleeping Beauty. The children in those sledges are children of the fashion plates of eighty years ago. Little boys in straw hats with ribbons that float out behind, with bowties of blue velvet, solemn black kid boots, and a long coat or paletot pulled in by a belt at the waist, like the shirt, as we have said before, of a Russian moujik: their sisters, or cousins, in long plaited pigtails, little hooped skirts ending at the knee, and little flat boat-shaped hats in parody upon the fashion. More than all else, though, these are children of the goatcart. There should come that little pattering of hooves, with the sound of little wheels. A child, in rags, holds the leading rein, while the bouc, the antelope, the satyr, walks. There are two goatcarts, two goat-drawn chariots, each with a child in it, and they draw up to the Fidele Bergere, close to that window into a world of fantasy, and pause a moment, and pass on. It is hot, very hot, and a brass band is blaring in the distance under the clipped lime trees. So might dream the shopkeeper, with head nodding upon his flowered waistcoat? Or the children, wrapped in furs, who stop while a parcel is brought out to them, and glide home over the snow?
It is to be remarked that the foreign shops have caught the spirit, or the genius loci. The Fidele Bergere, for we do not need to hurry, we only watch the sledges gliding by, has a lavish fantasy that it would not have in France. There is much display of the double-headed eagle. It appears, many times over, on the wrapping of every parcel; and there are inventions in the window that are pure Russian. It is thus with every Western art that has been transplanted to the Russian soil, from the cuisine la russe, so largely the work of Gouffet, chef-de-cuisine to Alexander II, to the buildings of Rastrelli, Charles Cameron, Quarenghi, or Thomas de Thomon. In fact, the Russian style, like the style a l'espagnole', is largely a foreign creation. That is to say, after perhaps one generation of foreign inspiration, the Russians seized upon what had been discovered for them and carried it still further. Another sledge draws up, and a lady dressed in sables walks into a shop, followed by a chasseur or heyduck in gorgeous uniform. All the passers-by wear sheep-skin coats down to their feet, which are wrapped in rags. There is a multitude of beggars of the hermit type; and persons of the Oriental slant gazing at the lit windows. Also, innumerable grey coated soldiers, the automatons of the crowd, for they have but a collective personality and are not individual. And we pass enormous private palaces, while a street song comes from near by, and sledges at full gallop dash round the corner of the Morskaja into the Nevski Prospekt, drawing up suddenly, for the sleigh stops of an instant, having no wheels.
Folk Music - Mussorgsky - Koniok Gorbunok - Kamarinskaya - Glinka
Is there such a thing as Russian music, in the lesser sense of a street song, a popular music of the peasant or the crowd? It has been argued there is not. Who could be so insensitive as to deny this? The street singers are of two kinds: the kalieki and kajiteli. The first wander in the villages and from town to town, singing for their daily bread: the latter sing for their own pleasure, roysterers and boon companions, likely, also, to sing on pilgrimages and in processions of the church. The national genius comes forth from them as much as in the shape of their musical phrases as in the words they use. It is a speech or vernacular, running parallel with the spoken word and apt to have more meaning, or an import at least, that is more charged or loaded than are syllables of talk. The deepest expression of their genius is in the vocal choruses such as those that Mussorgsky employed in his operas and that were the revelation of Russian music to the Western world. Many of his songs for solo voice are of the same inspiration and could be described as in street character, for their home was at the street corner or at the door of a drinking den. Never before had this been done in music. His songs have a physical force, and a realism, which are Russian, indeed, and could be naught else. We refer, in particular, to such masterpieces as Hopak, The Street Arab, or The Carousal. In his operas Boris Godounov and Khovantchina, the themes which are associated with earthly power or Tsardom make known their meaning instantly and upon the moment. In a song, of course, it is not the accompaniment alone but the sound of the words that give the Russian character; an instance of which, not in realism, but in sophistication, is After the Ball, a song by Tchaikowsky, than which nothing could be more Russian in every turn of phrase. It lives and breathes as much in this expression of nostalgia, of fashionable disillusionment, as in folk music, or in the ostensibly and demonstrably Russian idiom of Mussorgsky.
In this year of 1868 little or nothing of such names was known. Boris Godounov was not yet begun. Apart from street music, the one specimen of the national style was Glinka's Life for the Tsar, or Jizn sa Tsaria, dating from 1836 and often given at the Marie Theatre. In the words of a contemporary: 'This opera affords an opportunity of studying Russian melodies and costumes. Life for the Tsar was always most sumptuously mounted on the stage. This, and so far as Russian ballet was concerned, the Koniok Gorbunok or The Hump-backed Horse, the first ballet to be based on a Russian theme or fairy tale, with innocuous music by Cesare Pugni, and book by Saint-Leon who, later, wrote the libretto for Coppelia. The Hump-backed Horse was given first at the Bolshoy or Great Theatre in 1864; being followed by Tsar Devitsa or The Maiden Tsar, and The Golden Fish, both of these being derived, also, from national popular legends. This was all. The rest of Russian music was in embryo. As to The Hump-backed Horse, in the words of Andre Levinson: "Three worlds confront and penetrate one another in that comical fairyland; first, the manners of the Russian moujik, his squatting dances in birch bark shoes, the samovar, the knout; then an orient in the manner of an image d'Epinal; and superimposed on these two visions, the ideal kingdom of the classic dance." It was the time of the liberation of the serfs, and false sentiment expressed itself in an aping of the masses. Romans of the decadence, in the same manner, affected the dress and accents of the barbarians who would destroy them. Being foreigners, we would take the first opportunity of attending a performance of the Koniok Gorbunok, for it is to be preferred with Russian title, at the Bolshoy Theatre; and, not less, Glinka's Life for the Tsar at the Marie Theatre. In 1868 we are still among the primitives of Russian music. The only other name is that of Dargomyjsky. His opera Russalka was already written, and he is to be remembered, too, for his Finnish Fantasy, with its curiously different treatment of a theme which was, afterwards, to become the drunken song of the monk Varlam in Boris Godounov; and for a Kosachok or Cossack dance. But Russian music, till now, is only in reality Glinka and no one else.
It could be said with truth that the first and last piece of Russian music ever written was Glinka's Kamarinskaya, a symphonic treatment of two Russian airs, a wedding song and dance song. This was written in 1848. Let Kamarinskaya speak for itself! The first simple utterance of that Russian theme is not a tune, only, but a landscape and a people. It has no date. The material is all the mediaeval centuries, in the sense in which that miracle could be achieved in a line of poetry, with this difference that Glinka did not write the tune, he discovered it and gave it immortality. In its origin it can have been no better than a hundred other Russian airs, but his genius sharpened and pointed it, so that it is, at once, Russian and individual, of Glinka's own. The dance song that follows it, so Russian and characteristic in its preluding, in the manner in which announcement is made that it is coming, points the alternative season of the year. The first tune is the Russian winter: this is a long summer night, miles from anywhere, lost in the huge distances, among the wooden houses of a remote village, in a haze of dust while the immense sun is setting. Nothing of an outer world has come to them. All has been the same for centuries, since the time that they were pagan. The false notes of the last strophe are an inspiration, and the birth of a new school of music. Never before had this been attempted. The school of discord has its authority from this.
But Glinka made other discoveries no less important. He went to Madrid, a journey without precedent for a Russian of the reign of Nicholas I, and had the intention to compose a Spanish opera. He lodged overlooking the Puerta del Sol, and took down the melodies of flamenco singers and guitarists, including seguidillas manchegas from a muleteer. Later, he visited Granada. The results of his Spanish journey were the Jota Aragonesa and Summer Night in Madrid. Most unfortunately, he never persevered in a proposed work to be based upon Andalucian melodies, which would have been a study of the flamenco style. But these are, at least, the first serious orchestral works in Spanish idiom. Glinka's other compositions are the delightful Valse Fantaisie, a picture of the salons or ballrooms of St. Petersburg; and, for historical importance, such pieces as the krakoviak and mazurka from Life for the Tsar, together with the lezghinka and other dances from Ruslan and Ludimila. It must be said of these two operas that the first, in spite of certain moments or set numbers, is still written in a hybrid style, with touches of Weber, or even Nicolai. But the lezghinka, described by Glinka himself, as a 'Grand Air de danse sur des thimes du Caucase et de la Crimee', and composed for double orchestra, is the first contact of a Russian composer with the Orient of Caucasus and Caspian. Ruslan has, as well, a Persian chorus and melodies of Tartar origin. Beyond these experiments lie the magic lands of Central Asia, leading to Samarkand and to Bokhara. Glinka, indeed, not only composed the first Russian opera and the first Russian songs, but he discovered the national style of music in Kamarinskaya, while he made the earliest experiments in Spanish music and in music of the Orient. And he was an amateur and philanderer, lazy as only Russians with aesthetic tastes can be; and it is interesting to note for such details have their psychological importance, no more than 5ft 3/8 inches tall, nearly related, in fact, to the dwarf, being less than two inches removed from that defined frontier. Repin, in his well-known portrait of Glinka, lying on a sofa in a flowered dressing gown, his music table at his elbow, gives him the strong and aquiline features which must be the cause and explanation of his contradictory character. His small stature is not apparent in the picture. Perhaps it is, even, purposely concealed. But the features are those of a remarkable and determined man, typically enough, for the most Russian of all composers is concerned, not at all Slav or Russian in appearance. For the first half of the nineteenth century in Russia the most important figures are the Tsar himself (Nicholas I), Pushkin, and Glinka. During the second half of the century they will be Tolstoy, Dostoievsky, and Mussorgsky. These later names are a clear indication of the trend towards revolution. But our chosen moment of 1868, which is a visual impression, takes note only of the present and the immediate past. The future is not within its province. We can only discuss Russian music in so far as it had been achieved by then. For opera and ballet we have to be content with Glinka and The Hump-backed Horse.