Budashkin - The great orchestrator

Date published: 1970-01-01
Nicolai Budashkin

Nicolai Pavlovich Budashkin 1910-1988 was a famous Soviet composer who wrote some of the most enduring arrangements of Russian folk music for balalaika and domra orchestras, and many of his arrangements are played by the Sydney Balalaika Orchestra.

During WW2, his music was used to inspire patriotic feeling. After the war he became one of the musical directors for the state Ossipov Balalaika Orchestra. He also wrote music for plays and film scores.

The SBO is fortunate indeed to play some of his arrangements, noted for their magnificent orchestration like: ‘Russian Fantasy,’ ‘Fantasy on Russian Folk Songs,’ ‘Russian Overture’ and ‘Legend of Lake Baikal.’

Budashkin had huge orchestras with 80 trained musicians at his disposal. The SBO’s musical director Victor Serghie has not been so fortunate.

“Transforming these Budashkin scores to make them playable for a smaller orchestra with fewer than 30 musicians, has been a major challenge,” said Victor. “And somehow we have been able to achieve it.”

“I have to work with the musicians I can attract (and I’m always on the look-out for more). I also have to arrange music for the instruments we can source, while still preserving the magnificent symphonic sounds created by Budashkin,” he said.

At this, Victor has been outstandingly successful, so much so that in Russia, the Sydney Balalaika Orchestra has acquired an excellent reputation. Victor spends weeks adjusting the scores, rewriting them for smaller ensembles. For instance, Budashkin had prima, alto & tenor balalaikas. Victor has to make do with guitars.

“We are noted for our ability to interpret these massive symphonic scores very well,” said Victor. “Russia may have brilliant virtuoso musicians. But we have the dynamic discipline, and the ability to play ‘tightly’ together. And that is why we are able to achieve those wonderful symphonic sounds,” said Victor.