Lev Knipper

Lev Knipper
3.12.1898 - 30.07.1974
Period:XX age


Lev Konstantinovich Knipper (Лев Константинович Книппер) (3 December [O.S. 21 November] 1898 in Tbilisi – 30 July 1974 in Moscow), a Russian composer of partially German descent and an active OGPU - NKVD (Soviet secret police) agent.

Lev Knipper was the nephew of the actress Olga Knipper (Anton Chekhov's wife). His older sister Olga Chekhova also became an actress and married Mikhail Chekhov.

During the Russian civil war he fought in the White army and left Russia with the rest of baron Wrangel forces in 1920. Upon his return from emigration in 1922 he was recruited by OGPU foreign département. There is no evidence that he denounced any of his fellow composers or musicians during the periods of repressions.

He studied music in Moscow with Reinhold Glière and the Gnessin Music School. In the 20's, he worked at the Moscow Art Theatre with Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko and Konstantin Stanislavski.

He wrote his Fourth Symphony in 1934, which includes the famous song Polyushko Pole, with lyrics (dedicated to Kliment Voroshilov) by Victor Gusev. The music became one of the Marching songs of the Red Army Choir. Knipper did not suffer from the attacks of Andrei Zhdanov, who censored other composers.

According to secret documents revealed in 2008, during the Second World War existed in the USSR a secret plan designed by the kremlin in case that Moscow would fall into Nazi hands. Under the elaborate plan, ballerinas and circus acrobats were armed with grenades and pistols and ordered to assassinate German generals if they attempted to organise concerts and other celebrations upon taking the city. Lev Knipper was charged with the responsibility of killing Hitler if he got the opportunity.

Knipper was prolific. He wrote 5 operas (including one on the The Little Prince), 20 symphonies, ballets, pieces for piano and other film musics. He also studied ethnomusicology in the Central Asian Republics and researched folk music from Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

One of his most famed compositions is Полюшко-поле (Polyushko Polye), known as "Meadowland", and also called "Song of the Plains". 

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