Composer of Meadowlands (Polyushko Polye) was assigned to assassinate Hitler
Had Nazis won Battle of Moscow, they'd have entered a desert or a tomb
To the western ear, nothing makes one think “RUSSIA” more than Meadowlands, Polyushke Polye. When I first heard it, in the 1967 action film In Like Flint, starring James Coburn, I didn’t know what it was, nor did I know the composer (uncredited, as usual!) but I knew it meant RUSSIA, as the film makers intended. Other films using it to evoke Russia include Russian Roulette, Cast Away, The Victors… The earliest use of it in the west (uncredited) occurs in the 1948 Marlene Dietrich film A Foreign Affair.
Few know that Lev Knipper, who captured and represents the Russian soul with this music, was a prolific composer. Polyushke Polye started out as a part of his Fourth Symphony. Lev Knipper composed 21 symphonies, five operas, eight concertos, and he probably deserves to be as well-known as his contemporaries Shostakovich and Prokofiev.
Most of his works are out of print, and many have not even been published, but the world-wide use of Meadowlands makes up for this.
But Lev Knipper was more than a composer…
The Battle for Moscow was the Nazis’ first defeat, but had the Nazis entered Moscow, they would have found a desert or a tomb: all the city’s cultural attraction were to be booby-trapped and it turns out the composer had an assigned role: Lev Knipper, also a KGB agent, got the assignment to kill Hitler:
Adrian Bloomfield, Moscow correspondent for The Telegraph, reported on an exhibition to commemorate 90 years of Russian Counter Intelligence in 2008, in which we learn that
Stalin planned to blow up more than 1,200 buildings, including the Bolshoi Theatre and St Basil’s Cathedral, if the Nazis ever took Moscow, documents have revealed.
“The water supply, telephone system and power stations were all to be blown up in an attempt to render the city useless to the German occupiers.
“Stalin and his generals were to retreat to the wartime capital of Samara, on the Volga river, where Lenin’s body and other national treasures had already been stowed.”
“Under the elaborate plan, ballerinas and circus acrobats were armed with grenades and pistols and ordered to assassinate German generals if they attempted to organize concerts and other celebrations upon taking the city. The composer Lev Knipper was charged with the responsibility of killing Hitler if he got the opportunity.”
Here is a critique of the composer’s work as a composer, and it is titled Lev Knipper, the spy who came in from the cold I have translated the French:
“the little that is accessible of his work shows that he was a composer of talent, and supreme quality, of a great perseverance since he wrote his 21st symphony in 1972, which places him for production among the leading composers of the 20th century….
The curious can consult the brochure published by the Chant du Monde:
http://www.chantdumonde.com/Publishe…rochure36p.pdf [Sad to report, a dead link. Chant du Monde was Knipper’s publisher. A summary of his life and music, with the scant list of his works available may be read in the Chant du Monde site]
“It is probable that we can not do better: How to explain that a talented composer (technically at least Knipper is one of the great Soviet composers) at the head of such a production is known from so few recordings?
A personal note: last year, at age 74, after a lifetime with violin and viola, I acquired a cello, and began playing cello. It is more rewarding; I no longer read music (old eyes) but play by ear. And this morning, what emerged from the cello but Polyuske Polye. It carried me away, and brought me here. And brought me to the conclusion that Lev Knipper’s works must be unearthed and presented to the world.