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Famous Ukrainian Jews Commemorated on Postage Stamps
Isaak Dunayevsky (1900-1955)
Read about other commemoratives here.
"…He genuinely believed in a bright future"
||This is the commemorative postal card that Russia released in 2000.
Dunayevsky is portrayed on the cachet in the tradition of "social
realism" to make extremely cler who is depicted. We see a composer
writing music next to the piano. He is a respectable person in a
good suite decorated with the Order of the Red Banner. Behind the
window a May Labor Day demonstration is passing by. Happy workers
march through Red Square while singing his great optimistic songs.
2000 marks the birth centennial of the outstanding Russian composer Isaak
Dunayevsky. A unique personality in the history of Russian culture, Dunayevsky’s
music is the essence of the Soviet song. Unlike many other composers,
he was immensely popular in his lifetime. 45 years after his death, his
radiant, cheerful and optimistic melodies have lost none of their charm.
one Russian newspaper I read an article about the American Jewish songwriter
Irving Berlin. As an explanation of his importance as a songwriter it
says that Berlin is for America what Dunayevsky is for Russia. Perhaps
Dunayevsky means to Russia even more than the renowned author of “God
Bless America” means to the USA.
Life was tough in Russia and the road
to success was more than bumpy. Nothing could insure a bright future
or safety from the Gulag’s labor camps. It was impossible to simply
write good songs, make money and enjoy your place in entertainment’s
stardom. For many people life was a struggle to survive; and few succeeded
in Stalinist Russia.
||Independent Ukraine now claims the great composer as well as Russia,
and also commemorated his anniversary through philately by issuing
postal cards with the original stamp and cachet featuring a portrait
of Ukraine’s own celebrity.
Dunayevsky came from Lokhvitsa – a small Ukrainian town where
Jews made up half of population. His family loved music; his grandfather
was a cantor and his mother and uncle played various instruments. He
learned music from violinist Iosif Ahron, who also taught him beginning
composition. Dunayevsky was not only musically talented; he also graduated
from gymnasia with a gold medal and was accepted to Kharkov University.
He could have
learned a different profession, but it was the time of the 1917 Revolution
followed by the bloody Civil War of 1918-1920. His family was ruined
and music appeared the best way to provide for a living.
1923 Dunayevsky moved from Kharkov to Moscow and then again to Leningrad
(now St.Petersburg) in 1927, where he was invited to work in the local
Music Hall writing music for the legendary Russian Big Band leader and
singer – Leonid Utyosov. Utyosov recommended Dunayevsky to the
movie director Grigory Aleksandrov, who in turn produced two well-known
movies in the beginning of the 1930s with Dunayevsky’s music and
songs: “Jolly Fellows” and “Circus.”
|This 2001 Russian stamp depicts the movie star Lubov’ Orlova,
who performed his songs in several films. On the stamp, her portrait
is shown with a backdrop scene from the movie Circus, in
which a parade of people sing Dunaevsky’s most renowned patriotic
song about their Motherland (he wrote the music). The
lyrics declare: From Moscow to
the remote borderland,
From the Southern Mountains
to the Northern Seas.
"A Man can go as the Master . . .
his vast Motherland!" As
a joke people used to replace the last line with the words: “If
he, of course, isn’t a Jew!” This harshly accurate
observation was sung in rhyme and tempo with the original lyrics
overture from the film "The Children of Captain Grant" (based
on the Jules Verne novel) and music suite from the film “Circus” became
tremendous hits and were frequently performed by Russian orchestras.
prime of his career fell under Stalinist rule during the 30s, 40s
and 50s. This was a time of political trials and mass reprisals,
as well as a time of turbulent industrial development, great enthusiasm
and great hopes. In the 30s the young Soviet Republic, battered by
the high-winds of the 1917 revolution and the civil war of 1918-1920,
was making a speedy recovery. Many new cities, plants and electric
power stations were built. Lots of movie-houses and dance pavilions
were opened. Perhaps there had never before been as much singing
and dancing as in the 1930s. This is a jollier, lesser-known side
of the Stalinist era.
Yuri Saulsky wrote that Dunayevsky, "was one of those who genuinely
believed in a bright future, a brilliant composer with a lucid attitude
to life. That's one of his most striking qualities. Dunayevsky's
music is always cheerful."
critics call him a court composer of the Stalinist era because he
wrote numerous patriotic songs. Others say that he created a world
of bright illusions against a background of gloomy reality. Still
others, among them the well-known writer Mikhail Bulgakov, believed
that Dunayevsky's music was a reflection of his romantic dreams.
There were different periods in Dunayevsky's life. He was, indeed,
encouraged by the government and given awards. Moreover, the people
loved Dunayevsky. There were also dramatic aspects to his life, as
was the notorious anti-Semitic campaign against "cosmopolitism" in
the beginning of 1950s when Dunayevsky fell into disgrace. While
Soviet authorities initiated a “repentant” open letter
to the major Soviet newspaper “Pravda” for famous Jewish
personalities to sign, Dunayevsky was one of only four people brave
enough to refuse. In turn, high-ranking officials in the Soviet Ministry
of Culture accused him of all mortal sins and made libelous remarks
||Russian prestamped envelope with standard stamp and official cachet
portraying Isaak Dunayevsky that was issued in Soviet Union in 1979.
During WWII, Dunayevsky fell into a deep depression. From 1941 to 1946,
he did not write for movies; and the few songs he did write did
not render the usual quality of excellence. He thought that his sunny,
optimistic music did not match the tragic time. Despite this standstill,
he made a fresh beginning in 1947 writing operettas and music for
new movies. The fruits of his labor were again the great successes
he had previously enjoyed. Dunayevsky worked in excess of his fragile
health. Even in the last year of his life he wrote an operetta and
music, full of vivifying meaning and the energy, for three movies.
Isaak Dunayevsky died at the age of 55, leaving behind true musical
gems. Some sources indicate that he committed suicide.