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Leshchenko sings Strok's tango, under Nasimova's portraits

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Uploaded on May 23, 2008

Piotr LESCHENKO (b. 1898 in a village Isaeva, Ukraine) was known as 'the king of the Russian tango' and his singing was passionate and rich. Born in a Russian town south of Odessa in what was to become Romania after the 1st world war, he became an icon throughout Eastern Europe, one of the most sought after popular singers of his time. Having left Russia after the Bolshevik revolution, he toured in Europe, gaining enormous success in Warsaw, Paris, Riga, Bucharest - where he finally settled, and run his own cabaret. These 1931 -35 recordings are part of the work from what were considered to be his peak years, from the early to mid 1930s.

After World War II the Soviet army came to Romania, Leshchenko and his wife Vera were arrested by communist Romanian militia. Vera was sent to the Soviet Union, where she was condemned to penal labour and Piotr was imprisoned near Bucharest. He died in a prison hospital on July 16, 1954.

Alla NAZIMOVA (Mariam Edez Adelaida Leventon) (b. 1879 in Yalta, Crimea, d. 1945 Los Angeles, California) was one of three children of Yakov Leventon and Sonya Horowitz. She played the violin by age seven ans as a teenager she took acting lessons at the Moscow-based Academy of Acting before joining Stanislavsky's Moscow Art Theater as "Alla Nazimova," and later just "Nazimova.
By 1903 she was a major star in Moscow. She toured Europe, including London and Berlin, with her boyfriend, Pavel Orlenev, a flamboyant actor. In 1905 they moved to New York City and founded a Russian language theater on the Lower East Side. She was made her Broadway debut in 1906 to critical and popular success. She quickly became extremely popular (a theater was named after her) and remained a major Broadway star for years, often acting in the plays of Henrik Ibsen and Anton Chekhov. Over the next few years, she also made a number of silent films that earned her a considerable amount of money. By 1917, she was earning as much as $30,000 per film. She was also given a $13,000 per week contract. (At the time, Mary Pickford was on a $3,000 per week contract). In 1918 she began producing and writing films in which she also starred. Unfortunately, her projects, including A Doll's House (1922) based on Ibsen, and Salomé (1923) based on Wilde, met with little success and lost a great deal of money. By 1925 the financial backers withdrew their support. She returned to perform on Broadway until the early 1940s when she appeared in Robert Taylor's Escape (1940) and as Tyrone Power's mother in the film Blood and Sand (1941).

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Oscar Davidovich STROK was born in Dvinsk on 24 December 1892. His father was a theatre orchestra musician. O.Strok started getting interested in music very early. First he learned to play violin, then - piano. At the age of 12 he entered the St.-Petersburg Conservatoire where he studied in the piano class. In Latvia in 20s.-30s. of the 20th century, O.Strok worked as a pianist and conductor of a dance orchestra and composed musical romances, waltzes, and jazz compositions. In 1928 he went to France on a concert tour. In the interim between the 1st and the 2nd World Wars, his dance music was extremely popular in Europe. It could be heard everywhere -- in Paris, London, Warsaw and Berlin or Moscow -- at restaurants and cafes, concert halls and dancehalls, thousands and thousand records of his music were issued. After the composer's trip to Shanghai and Tokyo in 1935, his most beautiful tangos, such as: „Ach, eti cziornyje głaza" (Ah, Those Black Eyes), „Skazitie, poczemu?" („Tell Me Why, Madame?) or „Siniaja rapsodija" (Lunar Rhapsody) became well-known in China and Japan as well. That is why O.Strok was called "Tango King" already on his lifetime. He died on 22 June 1975 in Riga.


Recording:
Piotr Leshchenko -- Siniaja rapsodija (Blue Rhapsody; also known as: Lunar Rhapsody). Tango. (Oskar Strok), Columbia c. 1931

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