Alexandrov Ensemble is an official army choir of the Russian armed forces. Founded during the Soviet era, the ensemble consists of a male choir, an orchestra, and a dance ensemble.
Alexandrov Ensemble, along with the MVD Ensemble, are the only groups with the right to claim the title "Red Army Choir".
The Alexandrov Ensemble has entertained audiences both in Russia and throughout the world, performing a range of music including folk tunes, hymns, operatic arias, and popular music. The group's repertoire has included The Volga Boatmen's Song, Katyusha, Kalinka, and Ave Maria.
The ensemble is named for its first director, Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov (1883-1946). Its formal name since 1998 is Academic Ensemble of Song and Dance of the Russian Army named after A. V. Alexandrov (Russian: Академический ансамбль песни и пляски Российской Армии имени А. В. Александрова, Akademichesky ensemble pesni i plyaski Rossiyskoy Armii imeni A. V. Alexandrova), shortened to Academic Ensemble (Russian: Академический ансамбль, Akademichesky ensemble) on second reference.
On 25 December 2016, 64 members of the ensemble were killed when the Russian military plane on which they were traveling to perform for troops, crashed into the Black Sea.
Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov (Russian: Александр Васильевич Александров, Aleksandr Vasilevich Aleksandrov) (13 April [O.S. 1 April] 1883 – 8 July 1946) was a Russian Soviet composer, the founder of the Alexandrov Ensemble, who wrote the music for the national anthem of the Soviet Union, which, in 2000, became the anthem of Russia (with new lyrics). During his career, he also worked as a professor of the Moscow State Conservatory, and became a Doctor of Arts. His work was recognized by the awards of the title of People's Artist of the USSR and the Stalin Prize.
Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov, known as Sacha, was born on 13 April in Plakhino, a village in Ryazan Governorate south-east of Moscow. As a boy his singing was so impressive that he travelled to Saint Petersburg to become a chorister in Kazan Cathedral. A pupil of Medtner, he studied composition at Saint Petersburg and in Moscow, where he eventually became professor of music in 1918.
Alexandrov founded the Alexandrov Ensemble, and spent many years as its director, in which role he first gained favor with Joseph Stalin, the country's ruler during the last two decades of Alexandrov's life. His choir participated successfully in the Universal Exposition of 1937 in Paris, and in 1942, Stalin commissioned him and lyrist Sergey Mikhalkov to create a new Soviet national anthem, which was officially adopted on 1 January 1944. It was very popular, and was used by the Soviet Union until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. It later became the National Anthem of Russia in December 2000, with Mikhalkov writing the new lyrics.
He also composed the famous song The Sacred War, and the official march of the Soviet and now Russian Armed Forces, the Song of the Soviet Army.
He died on 8 July 1946, while on tour in Berlin; some records say he was returning from Germany.
Before he died in 1946, Alexander Alexandrov made it clear to his son Boris that the choir was central to the Alexandrov Ensemble, and that without the choir there would be no Ensemble. There are several possible reasons for this:
- It represents the army and the people: from the start, the choir has represented not only the Red Army but also, in the early days, the Soviet Union's socialist ethos. To the audience – when the choir is 80-strong – it can sound like the voice of the masses. So the orchestra, soloists and dance troupe alone could not be seen to be representative in the same way.
- It allows a full range of genres in performance: in the Soviet era, the Alexandrov Ensemble represented the Soviet Union's musical culture at home and abroad. Alexander Alexandrov had to compose and arrange songs in a variety of musical styles, from folk song and popular music to opera and oratorio. Popular music in his day (1920s–1940s) could involve a choir, but opera and oratorio need a choir or chorus, if the full range of composition, arrangement and performance is to be allowed.
- It showcases the singing stars: in the Ensemble, the soloist singers are the stars who are named on recordings, as they are the only personnel to be given solos for the length of a song or act. However, without the Alexandrovs' showmanship via choral arrangement to provide a framework and showcase for these soloists, there would be no stars. A fine example of this would be the choral arrangement which complements Stanislav Frolov singing Song of the Dnieper (Russian: Песня о Днепре).