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Russian Sailor's Dance

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Saved by Sara Goodman
on December 7, 2009 at 11:26:38 am

Russian Sailor's Dance

Reinhold Glière arr. Merle J. Issac (New York, NY: Carl Fischer, 1940).






Essential Questions & Information about Russian Sailors Dance


What cultural and historical facts to do we know about the song?

The Original Folk Song

This piece is a transcription of the Russian folk song "Yablochko," or "Little Apple" in Russian. The song has 8 verses, and is a pre-Russian revolution song. It talks about allying with the Bolsheviks, supporting Vladimir Lenin, and embracing the communist regime. 



Verses Original Russian Russian Transliteration English Translation
Verse 1
Эх, яблочко,                
Куда ты котишься?
Ко мне в рот попадешь -
Не воротишься. .

Jeh, jablochko,

Kuda ty kotish'sja?

Ko mne v rot popadesh'

Ne vorotish'sja.

Little Apple,

Where are you going to?

You'll get into my mouth and never come back

Verse 2
"Эх, яблочко,              
На тарелочке. .
Надоела мне жена,
Пойду к девочке.

Jeh, jablochko,
Na tarelochke.
Nadoela mne zhena,
Pojdu k devochke.

Little Apple

Is on the plate.

I am tired of my wife

I will go to young girl

Verse 3
Эх, яблочко,                
Не ходи за мной, буржуй,
Я вся красная.

Jeh, jablochko,
Ne hodi za mnoj, burzhuj,
Ja vsja krasnaja.

Oh, Little apple,

Pineapple kind.

Do not follow me, bourgeois,

I am with Bolsheviks

Verse 4
Пароход плывет  -            
Вода кольцами.
Будем рыбу кормить
Parohod plyvet -
Voda kol'cami.
Budem rybu kormit'

The steamboat is going,

The water makes rings

We will feed the fish

With Volunteers

Verse 5
Эх, яблочко,                
С боку зелено,
Надоел мне Колчак -
Хочу Ленина.
Jeh, jablochko,
S boku zeleno,
Nadoel mne Kolchak -
Hochu Lenina.

Oh little apple,

Green on the side.

I am tired of Kolchak,

I want Lenin instead

Verse 6
Эх, яблочко,                
Колчаковская власть
Jeh, jablochko,
Kolchakovskaja vlast'

Little apple is rolling.

The Kolchak's regime

Has fallen apart.

Verse 7
Эх, яблочко,                
Комиссарская власть -

Jeh, jablochko,
Komissarskaja vlast'

Oh little apple,

Made of Tin

The comissar's regime is damned.

Verse 8
Коммунист молодой          
Зачем женишься?
Придет Нестор Махно -
Куда денешься?
Kommunist molodoj
Zachem zhenish'sja?
Pridet Nestor Mahno -
Kuda denesh'sja?

Young communist,

Why do you get married?

Nestor Makhno will get back

You are in big trouble!











































Historical Context in Gliere's Ballet, The Red Poppy Op. 70

This piece comes from Gliere's ballet, The Red Poppy, written in 1926. Unlike other composers of his time, like Rachmaninov, he stayed in Russia and adapted to the censorship of music imposed by the Russian Revolution.  he did not have. According to the All Music Guide, The plot revolves around a Chinese Girl, her manager, and a Russian Captain. The first act of the ballet closes with the Russian Sailor's Dance, which is a transcription, and set of variations of the Russian folksong Yablochko, mentioned earlier which has been adapted for a full orchestra. This piece scores high on World Music Authenticity score, scoring a 4, as it is a direct transcription and variation of a song of a culture. By adapting a familiar folksong that praises the Bolsheviks and the impending Russian Revolution, he shows pride in his country and culture. Gliere's transcription has since been arranged by many people including Merle J. Issac, and Eliot del Borgo.




What is the song like when sounded by traditional instruments/voices?

This song is originally written for Russian folk instruments including the Bayan (Russian Accordion) and the Balaika.  Typically there is a lot of improvisation in the original theme of the song, and it turns into a virtuosic set of variations. It also has an easy four beat pattern to dance to, that gets faster overall. This song is also a traditional Russian naval song, and is part of the Russian naval culture. 





How is the song taught traditionally?

The folk song is taught orally, and seems to be customary for the Russian Navy. According to anthologies of Russian Pre-Revolution songs, locals would make up their own verses to the tune, so it may have changed from city to city and village to village. Since the theme repeats itself, it is very easy to add variations and make each verse more and more complicated. Since there are so many arrangements of the 





How does the song live today for the people of and from that culture?

Yablochka/Russian Sailor's Dance is still very popular around the world. There are even groups in the United States specializing in Russian dance music who perform the dance regularly. 





How does Russian Sailor's have  meaning for people who live in Russia today?

This song serves as a preservation tool of Russia before the revolution, and is a well know, defined part of Russian culture today. It is still sung/danced in the Russian navy, and continues to live on in dance, vocal, and instrumental performances. It is an example of Russian nationalism through music.





What does Russian Sailor's Dance mean to people from Russia  or people whose families are from Russia who live in our community today?

This piece expresses the feelings of Russian pride and nationalism. It is still sung, performed, and danced today. I think that it provides a connection to Russia for those no longer live there, and the sound is so distinctly Russian, with the accents, and the heavy marcato that Gliere writes in this piece that it is instantly recognizable as being Russian. 




How we can play the song in a way that illustrates what we’ve learned about how a person can reflect and respect a song and the people who own it and think it important?

The most important part is to emphasize all of the accents, sforzandi, and articulations. These articulations make this piece clearly Russian. According to TEaching Music Through Performance in Orchestra, "ARticulations are well Marked in the score and must be accurately observed to elicit the Russian atmosphere of this programmatic composition based in nineteenth century romantic style" (Allen, 234-235)



How does this information fit with the information presented in Teaching Music Through Performance in Orchestra? 

 In The book, Teaching Music Through Performance in Orchestra, It does not say anything about the folk song on which it is based. It does not talk about the traditional instruments used, or about the storyline of the ballet, "The Red Poppy," where Russian Sailor's Dance comes from. It provides basic historical information, but not enough to really capture the Russian "Flavor" needed to give a historically and stylistically accurate representation of this piece.  The focus of this text is to give background information about the piece and its harmonic and melodic structure, not provide a complete cultural and historical account of the piece.



Print Sources


  1. Allen, et al. Teaching Music through Performance in Orchestra. Ed. David Littrell and Laura Reed Racin. Chicago: GIA Publications, Inc. , 2001. Print. 


Website Sources

Source Name
San Luis Obispo Symphony Program Notes - Russian Sailor's Dance
Encyclopaedia Britannica - Reinhold Gliere
Naxos - Reinhold Gliere
J.W. Pepper - Sheet Music for Russian Sailor's Dance
Pre-Revolutionary Russian Songs - Yablochko
Classical Archives - The Red Poppy
Barynaya - Russian Dance - Yablochko/Russian Sailor's Dance
All Music Guide - The Red Poppy


Audio Sources


  1. 3 Bayans playing the original song, Yablonchka http://retro.samnet.ru/music/phono/waltz/jablochko.mp3
  2. Russian Sailor's Dance, Orchestra Unknown (USSR) - Russian Sailors Dance.mp3
  3. Russian Sailor's Dance, Delta Youth Orchestra http://delta-youth-orchestra-russian-sailors-da-mp3-download.kohit.net/_/173664
  4. Russian Sailors Dance, Glenelg Band and Marching Unit Glenelg Band Russian Sailors Dance.mp3 from http://www.glenelgbands.com/music.php


Video Sources



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Orchestra Name Month-Year School-Location


Wilkings Junior High School November 2009 Niles West High School - Middle School Orchestra Clinic Christina Hudson
Herrick Middle School November 2009 Niles West High School - Middle School Orchestra Clinic Lindsay Klecka





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