Dunaevskii, Isaak

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Dunaevskii, Isaak Osipovich


Born Jan. 18 (30), 1900, in Lokhvitsa, in present-day Poltava Oblast: died July 25, 1955, in Moscow. Soviet composer. People’s Artist of the RSFSR (1950). Son of an office worker.

Dunaevskii graduated from the Kharkov Conservatory in 1919, where he studied violin with I. Iu. Akhron. He studied composition with S. S. Bogatyrev and worked as a composer and conductor in Kharkov drama theaters. From 1924, Dunaevskii lived in Moscow, where he directed the music section of the Theater of Satire. One of the creators of Soviet operetta, he wrote 12 works in this genre, including The Wooers (staged in 1927) and The Golden Valley (presented in 1937), which created memorable portraits of Soviet youth. Without rejecting the traditions of neo-Viennese operetta represented by E. Kálmán and F. Lehár, Dunaevskii pioneered new forms, interweaving operetta and Soviet popular songs and folk art. In his works the composer introduced grand ensembles, well-developed finales, and orchestral episodes. In the operetta Free Wind (staged in 1947), Dunaevskii expressed for the first time in this genre the theme of the struggle for peace. Among his best operettas are also The Clown’s Son (staged in 1950) and White Acacia (staged in 1955).

Dunaevskii’s talent was most brilliantly revealed in the music for the films Jolly Fellows (1934), Three Comrades (1935), The Goalkeeper (1936), The Circus (1936; State Prize of the USSR, 1941), The Children of Captain Grant (1936), Volga-Volga (1938; State Prize of the USSR, 1941), The Radiant Path (1940), Spring (1947), and The Kuban’ Cossacks (1950; State Prize of the USSR, 1951). The composer was one of the originators of Soviet cinematic musical comedy, making music one of the main components of film dramaturgy.

Dunaevskii’s songs are a landmark in the history of Soviet songwriting. They are imbued with optimism and faith in life and belief in the triumph of free labor. His “Song of the Homeland” (from the film The Circus) has been chosen as the theme song of Soviet National Radio. Dunaevskii’s style developed on the basis of urban vocal and instrumental popular music and is closely, related to operetta and jazz. The composer created a new type of popular song—marching songs, whose main characteristics are dynamic, lively rhythms and generally major tonality (for example, “March of the Jolly Fellows,” “Song of Kakhovka,” “Sports March,” “Song of the Gay Wind,” and “March of Enthusiasts”). Songs that are stylistically similar to the marching songs are “Railways and Pathways” and the “Song of the Road.” Dunaevskii’s lyric songs are often close to lyric popular art songs (for example, songs from the films The Goalkeeper, The Seekers of Happiness, and Volga-Volga). The song “Fly, Pigeons” expressed lyrically the striving of men to prevent expansionist wars. Dunaevskii composed waltz songs (“An Evening of Waltz,” “The School Waltz,” “Silence,” and “Do not Forget”). He also composed ballets and music for dramatic presentations. His work influenced many Soviet composers. Dunaevskii was a deputy to the First Convocation of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, and he has been awarded two orders and various medals.


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Danilevich, L. I. O. Dunaevskii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1947.
Pen, A. I. Dunaevskii. Moscow, 1956.
Chernov, A. Isaak Osipovich Dunaevskii. Moscow, 1961.
I. O. Dunaevskii (collection of articles). Moscow, 1961.
Mikheeva, L. I. O. Dunaevskii. Leningrad, 1963.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.