The Wanderings of an Icon from Vox Humana
The Volga Boatmen, who worked as human beasts of burden hauling barges along Russia's rivers, eventually became folk icons, portrayed in literature, music and painting as heroic symbols of the Russian soul. This program traces the story of the Volga Boatmen in art, starting with Ilya Repin's painting of the Barge-Haulers in the Russian Museum in Saint-Petersburg. An interview with art historian David Jackson of Leeds University explains how Repin hit upon the subject and went to the village of Shiryayevo to sketch the men at their work. We also look at the theme in Russian literature and at the large number of musical compositions inspired by the Song of the Volga Boatmen, from Balakirev, Glazunov and Tchaikovsky to Chaliapin, Stravinsky and even Glenn Miller. The motif of the Volga Boatmen illustrates how generations of artists have created a Russian folk icon out of an unlikely subject.