Official website of the Spasskaya Tower International Military Music Festival
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Official website of the Spasskaya Tower International Military Music Festival
31 May 2020

And the Fire’s Still Burning at Night

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On April 19, 1943 the Pravda broadsheet newspaper published a poem by Mikhail Isakovskiy entitled Ogonek. Translated as “the fire”, the poem was meant to become a song. Various authors engaged themselves in composing the music. Nevertheless, for many years the song was considered to be popular. As no official author was established, everyone chose the version to their liking. One of the versions, handed over to the museum of the Central Military Band of the Russian Ministry, belonged to Nikolay Chugunov, Soviet composer and conductor.

Nikolay Chugunov was born in 1902 in Moscow. Graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, he for many years worked at the theater company of Yuri Zavadsky. In 1941 he went to the front where he served as a band conductor. He went through the war and in 1945 returned home to his family. In 1948, just a few years later, Chugunov died from a serious illness.

He had a wife and two children left. Both of Chugunov’s children followed in their father’s footsteps. Yuriy Chugunov (born in 1938), his son, is a member of the Composers’ Union, professor at the Moscow State Institute of Culture and Gnesins Music Academy, composer, saxophone performer and conductor. Natalia Chugunova (1946–2018), his daughter, was a fortepiano teacher.

It’s worth noting that even today the popular version of the Ogonek song is still the best-known variant, meaning that the music has no author.

Isakovskiy remembered that various composers were claiming the music authorship. But a special Composers’ Union commission resolved that none of them could be the author, while the melody bore a close resemblance to the “Stella” tango the author of which is also unknown. According to some sources, the tango’s authorship is attributed to Jerzy Petersburski, composer of the famous Siniy Platochek (Blue Scarf) song, who in 1949 immigrated to Argentina.

An interesting fact, in Japan the Ogonek song is as popular as the iconic Katyusha.