Shakespeare in Music (Mikael Tariverdiev, Sonnet 102)

Your response to the Valentine’s Day article featuring Shakespeare’s sonnet no. 22 in different languages prompted me to research the subject better… and, thankfully, I didn’t have to look too far. In Russia, the Bard’s sonnets in translation by Samuil Marshak were put to music several times. One such rendition that you will see and hear comes from the film by Viktor Titov, Adam Marries Eva, a screen adaptation of the play In Sachen Adam und Eva by Rudi Strahl. You have seen the name of Viktor Titov a few times in my articles, he directed The Life of Klim Samgin and the Russian version of Charlie’s Aunt by Brandon Thomas. Now is the time to introduce Mikael Tariverdiev, a Russian/Soviet composer of Armenian origin.

Tariverdiev is famous with the majority of people thanks to his soundtracks to people’s films: Seventeen Moments of Spring and The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath! The former told the story of the Soviet spy at the Nazi service; the latter is a romcom that has been shown on TV every New Year’s eve since its release in 1975. Among other films where he was a composer are Romance, Russian Style and Adam Marries Eve. However, Tariverdiev composed a lot of classical music, having been taught by Aram Khachaturian, and for years the international organ music contest has been bearing Tariverdiev’s name.

What I absolutely adore about Soviet cinema – and which is critically rare in modern Russian cinema – are the adaptations of foreign literature. I mentioned before that my uncle, Vadim Derbenyov, brought The Woman in White and several other foreign classics to the Soviet screen. Viktor Titov, however, requires an absolutely different look at his work. As I’m working on translation of The Life of Klim Samgin the movie, I can barely get my head around the fact that Titov had to have known the entire novel by heart to even co-write the script, let alone to direct it. This might not sound like a great deal, unless we remind ourselves that Gorky spirt out four volumes of the life of an intellectual, and still died before completing the novel.

One doesn’t fail to notice how well Titov knew literature, poetry, in particular. The Life of Klim Samgin has a musical rendition of Mikhail Lermontov’s poem, I Go Out on the Road Alone, for its “soundtrack”. Hello, I’m Your Auntie featured an amazing performance of Love and Poverty by Robert Burns. And to “illustrate” Adam Marries Eve, Titov chose Shakespeare’s sonnets. Performed by Tariverdiev himself, sonnets illuminate and accentuate a story in the romantic comedy genre, adding blue yet hopeful notes to the narrative. The video below features Elena Tsyplakova (Eve) and Alexander Solovyov (Adam). And, last but not least, the film was released in 1980 – the year of the Moscow Olympics when I was also born.

William Shakespeare – Sonnet 102

My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming;
I love not less, though less the show appear;
That love is merchandized, whose rich esteeming,
The owner’s tongue doth publish every where.
Our love was new, and then but in the spring,
When I was wont to greet it with my lays;
As Philomel in summer’s front doth sing,
And stops his pipe in growth of riper days:
Not that the summer is less pleasant now
Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night,
But that wild music burthens every bough,
And sweets grown common lose their dear delight.

Therefore like her, I sometime hold my tongue:
Because I would not dull you with my song.

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