Vladimir horn players in the 20th century

The transfer of the Kondratyev’s choir of horn players under the leadership of P.G. Pakharev took place gradually, as early as the end of the 1890s. This was facilitated by periodically arising situations when, at the peak of their popularity, horn players had to perform in different places at once. For example, in 1896 two invitations were received: one was to participate in the cultural program of the Nizhny Novgorod Fair, the other – to perform at the festivities in honor of Tsar Nicholas II Coronation in Moscow on the Khodynskoye field. They had to replenish the choir with new horn players and divide it into two groups. A group led by Pyotr Bakharev was supposed to perform at the coronation, which was listed in the Program of the event: «The horn players choir of Pakharev (15 people)». Pakharev was a stage name that emphasized the peasant origin of the musician and was more understandable to the urban public.

Pyotr Gordeevich Bakharev (Pakharev) (1860-1930) was born into a peasant family in the village of Simakovo. The talented boy independently learned to write, read and play the horn. The musician-nugget showed the art of improvisation, which constantly contributed to his victories in the musical competitions of the shepherds. N.V. Kondratyev noticed the talent of the young horn player and invited him to his choir. He made Pakharev his successor after two decades of joint creative activity. 

Horn players from Simakovo and villages close to it began to predominate in the choir of Pyotr Pakharev, which simplified the possibilities of rehearsals. Whole dynasties played in the ensemble, including those of Pakharev himself – his brothers Isaac and Nikolai, his son Vasily, as well as his nephew. Relatives passed on the skills of playing the horns, supported each other during the tour. The composition of the choir slightly increased, and the set of instruments also changed – a button accordion and a tambourine appeared in addition to horns of different order, which made it possible to diversify the repertoire. 

The choir of P.G. Pakharev was very popular, it toured in more than four dozen cities, and in large cities it gave several concerts. According to the memories of the horn players themselves, they more than once accompanied Fyodor Chaliapin, who sang «Dubinushka», «Mashenka» and other songs. However, no documents have survived to confirm this fact. In 1910, the songs and tunes of the Pakharev's horn players were recorded on gramophone records.

The touring of the P.G. Pakharev’s choir stopped at the beginning of the First World War. But after the October Revolution, already in Soviet times, the horn players gave concerts in the workers' clubs of Vladimir, Kovrov, Kameshkovo, performed at the Vladimir provincial meetings and conferences.

In the summer of 1923, the horn players performed at the All-Russian Agricultural and Handicraft-Industrial Exhibition in Moscow, which became the predecessor of the Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy. The musicians were asked to continue performing until the end of the exhibition, and in two months they gave about 110 concerts. Moreover, the program usually consisted of three or four songs, and they had to play eight or nine. Their success was incredible! Under the influence of historical events, revolutionary and patriotic works appeared in their repertoire – «Varangian», «Varshavyanka», «Forward, to meet the dawn», «As Vanya’s own Mother saw off him to the soldiers» and others. At the end of the exhibition, the horn players were invited to the Kremlin, where they performed for members of the government and even talked with the chairman of the USSR Central Executive Committee M. I. Kalinin. Each member of the ensemble received a diploma for the original performance of Russian folk songs. This was the last great performance of the P.G. Pakharev’s choir of horn players.

 M.E. Pyatnitsky, founder of the Russian folk choir, managed to record on the phonograph five tunes that sounded in the concerts of the horn players at the agricultural exhibition in Moscow in 1923. He was keenly interested in the art of playing the horns of Vladimir shepherds and attracted them to the instrumental accompaniment of songs in his choir. Horns sounded in the orchestra of the choir gave it fresh and bright colors.

In the 1930s, a new stage in the history of the Vladimir horn players creativity was associated with the name of Alexander Vasilyevich Sulimov. He was born in 1899 in the village of Vysheslavskoye of the Suzdal district, the Vladimir province. At the age of ten, he fell into the care of a shepherd who mastered the art of horn music. Alexander Sulimov turned out to be a capable pupil, soon surpassed his teacher and received a wonderful palm tree horn from him, which was passed down from generation to generation to the most talented horn players. For more than twenty years A. Sulimov grazed herds and perfected the technique of playing the horn. In 1935 he moved with his family to the village of Zhabrikha, Savino district, Ivanovo region, where an event that changed his fate took place. In 1936, a representative of the Red Army arrived in the village and invited Alexander Sulimov to lead the Red Army ensemble of horn players.

A year later, after the successful performance of the Sulimov’s choir at the region review of the army amateur performance in Moscow, at the initiative of the People's Commissar of Defense Marshal of the Soviet Union K. E. Voroshilov, the horn players were enrolled in the Song and Dance Ensemble of the Moscow Military District. Here they mastered musical notation and playing an additional instrument – plucked or percussion.

The repertoire of the A.V. Sulimov's choir of horn players consisted mainly of Russian folk songs, but there were also military and patriotic works, for example, the famous «Katyusha». In the 1930s, horn music performed by Sulimov's choir sounded on the All-Union Radio, and was recorded on gramophone records. Even the records have been preserved on which the famous Lydia Ruslanova sings Russian folk songs, accompanied by Sulimov's horn players. 

At the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, the choir of A.V. Sulimov, together with the Song and Dance Ensemble of the Moscow Military District, performed in in military units near the front line. In 1942 the choir leader and other horn players went to the front. Sergeant Sulimov served as a signalman. His horn sang on halts between battles, raising the spirit of the fighters, helping to survive. A.V. Sulimov went a long way along the roads of war from Tikhvin to Prague. He was awarded the Order of the Red Star, the Order of Glory III degree, twelve medals for military services.

After returning from the war, A.V. Sulimov served in the ranks of the militia, was an active organizer of collective farm construction. But his passion for folk art and creative potential were again realized in the creation of a choir of horn players from the Vladimir and Ivanovo regions. In February 1948, this choir performed in Moscow on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater of the USSR, in the final concert of the All-Russian show of rural amateur performances. Over the next two decades, the choir of A.V. Sulimov continued to delight the audience and received awards at regional creative competitions.

The development of Russian horn music traditions was facilitated by the inclusion of horn groups into the orchestra of the State Russian Folk Choir named after M.E. Pyatnitsky in 1938 and the State Academic Russian Orchestra of Folk Instruments named after N.P. Osipov in 1940. This gave an authentic coloring to the sound of the orchestras. For direct playing on horns, as well as for transferring the secrets of their skills to professional musicians, former shepherds from the Vladimir land were invited to these famous collectives.

The original art of the peasant horns of the Vladimir region went down in the history of Russian folk music. Despite the prevalence in many provinces of Central Russia, the shepherd's horn began to be called «Vladimir», primarily due to the organizational skills, musical talent of the natives of the Vladimir lands N.V. Kondratyev, P.G. Pakharev, and then A.V. Sulimov and the glory of the horn players choirs they created. «Vladimir horn» and «Vladimir horn players» as special concepts are included in encyclopedic dictionaries. A shepherd's horn is depicted on the modern coat of arms of the Kameshkovo district, the Vladimir region, the small homeland of the Vladimir horn players. 

Since the 1970s, on a new wave of interest in Russian folklore as a source of aesthetic values, ensembles, playing on distinctive folk instruments, including the horn, began to emerge. In the Vladimir region, such groups as the Ensemble of Russian folk music «Vishenka», the Orchestral Group of the State Vocal and Choreographic Ensemble «Rus», the Men's Folklore Ensemble «Muroma», the Ensemble «Vladimir Horn Players» and others have become the followers of their famous countrymen horn players. Thanks to these enthusiasts, traditional musical culture is reviving today on a new basis, and the Russian folk instrument – the horn – begins to sound modern, bright and fresh.