Alexander Gradsky

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Alexander Gradsky : biography

3 November 1949 –

Alexander Borisovich Gradsky ( born November 3, 1949, in Kopeysk) is a Russian rock singer, bard, multi-instrumentalist and composer. He was one of the earliest performers of rock music in Russia. His diverse repertoire includes rock ‘n’ roll, traditional folk songs performed with a rock twist, and operatic arias. He has composed two rock operas and numerous songs including soundtrack music for several films.

Solo career

In 1973, film director Andrei Konchalovsky asked Alexander Gradsky to compose and perform music for the film Romance for Lovers (Романс о влюблённых – Romance o vlyublënnyh), which was released in 1974, the same year in which Gradsky graduated with a Master’s degree in vocal performance. Gradsky performed all the male vocal parts in the film soundtrack, which brought him fame as a solo artist. His many records released during his long career encompass a variety of genres. His first rock opera, Stadium (Стадион – Stadion), was released as a double LP in 1985. He also composed a rock ballet The Man (Человек – Chelovek), released in 1988.

Gradksy is a tenor who is reported to have a three-and-a-half octave vocal range, and also plays 12 instruments. He performed the demanding role of the Astrologer in Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Golden Cockerel (Золотой Петушок – Zolotoy Petushok) in Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre in 1988.

His collaboration with John Denver, with whom he performed the 1986 song Let us Begin…, brought him to wider international attention. In 1999, he performed a recital at New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

Since the late ’80s, Gradsky has been teaching vocals at the Gnesin Music Academy as well as performing.

In late 2009, Alexander Gradsky released a 4-CD opera adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita (Ма́стер и Маргари́та), starring Gradsky himself as Master, Woland, Yeshua and Behemoth. The opera also stars Nikolai Fomenko as Koroviev, Mikhail Seryshev (formerly of Master) as Ivan, and Elena Minina as Margarita, in addition to many renowned Russian singers and actors in episodic roles, including (but not limited to) Iosif Kobzon, Lyubov Kazarnovskaya, Andrei Makarevich, Alexander Rosenbaum, Arkady Arkanov, and the late Georgi Millyar (voice footage from one of his movies was used).

Personal life

Alexander Gradsky has been married four times, perhaps most notably to actress Anastasiya Vertinskaya in the 1970s, after her divorce from Nikita Mikhalkov.

Early life and musical beginnings

Alexander Gradsky was born on November 3, 1949 in the Russian city of Kopeysk. His father was an engineer working in a factory, and his mother was an actress. His mother encouraged him to learn to play the violin as a child, and her brother, Alexander Gradsky’s uncle, was a dancer who toured abroad and brought home records of Western music artists including Elvis Presley, Louis Armstrong and Little Richard. Such music was not ordinarily available in Soviet Russia at that time.

By the age of 12, Gradsky was singing Elvis Presley songs and accompanying himself on guitar. In 1963, at the age of 13, he sang with a Polish student band called Tarakany (Тараканы – The Cockroaches) in a concert at the International Club of Moscow State University. This is believed to have been the first public performance of rock ‘n’ roll by any Russian musician.


Rock operas

Russian title English translation Year
Стадион Stadium 1985
Мастер и Маргарита The Master and Margarita 2009

Other albums and EPs

Russian title English translation Year
Давид Тухманов "Как прекрасен мир" David Tukhmanov "How the World is Fine"(Alexander Gradsky sings two songs) 1972
Поёт Александр Градский Alexander Gradsky Sings 1973 (EP)
Романс о влюбленных" Romance about Lovers 1974
Песни из к/ф "Солнце, снова солнце" Songs from the movie "Sun, sun again" 1976
Александр Градский и ансамбль "Скоморохи" Alexander Gradsky and "Skomorokhi" 1978 (EP)
Александр Градский & Элтон Джон (Только ты верь мне) Alexander Gradsky & Elton John (Only you trust me) 1979 (EP)
Русские песни Russian Songs 1980
Нам не жить друг без друга We Can’t Live Without Each Other 1980 (EP)
"Сама жизнь" Вокальная сюита на стихи Поля Элюара "Life Itself" Vocal Suite on verses of Paul Eluard 1984
"Звезда полей" Вокальная сюита на стихи Н.Рубцова "Fields Star"Vocal Suite on verses by N. Rubtsov 1986
"Сатиры" Вокальная сюита на стихи Саши Черного "Satire"Vocal Suite on verses of Sasha Cherny 1987
Давайте начнём Let’s Get Started 1987 (EP)
Утопия АГ Utopia AG 1987
"Размышления шута" Вокальная сюита "Reflections of a Jester" Vocal Suite 1987
"Флейта и рояль" Вокальная сюита на стихи Б.Пастернака и В.Маяковского "Flute and Grand Piano" Vocal Suite on verses by Boris Pasternak & Vladimir Mayakovsky 1988
"Ностальгия" Вокальная сюита на стихи В.Набокова "Nostalgia" Vocal Suite on verses by Vladimir Nabokov 1988
"Человек" Балет "The Man" Ballet 1988
"Монте-Кристо" Музыка и песни из хф "Узник замка Иф" "Monte Cristo" Music and Songs from the Movie "Prisoner of Château d’If" 1989
Концерт -сюита Concert Suite 1989
Экспедиция Expedition 1990
(n/a) Metamorphoses 1991
Несвоевременные песни Untimely Songs 1994
Фрукты с кладбища Fruit from the Cemetery 1995
ЖИВьЕМ в "России" (A)live in "Russia" 1996
Золотое Старье Gold Junk 1996
Коллекция АГ (13CD) Collection of AG (13 CD set) 1996
"Легенды русского рока" А.Градский и группа Cкоморохи "Legends of Russian Rock" A. Gradsky and "Skomorokhi" 1997
ЖИВьЕМ в "России" 2 (A)live in "Russia" 2 2000
Хрестоматия Reader 2003
Песни для Иры Songs for Ira 2003


Russian title English translation Year
ЖИВьЕМ в "России" 2 Юбилейный видеоконцерт (A)live in "Russia" 2 Jubilee video concerts 2004
ЖИВьЕМ в "России" Юбилейный видеоконцерт (A)live in "Russia" Jubilee video concerts 2010
"Антиперестроечный Блюз"(фильм -концерт 1990 г.) "Anti-Perestroika Blues" (Film-concert 1990) 2010

Other bands

In the mid-1960s, Gradsky joined the band Slaviane (Славяне – The Slavs) as lead singer. The band’s repertoire consisted almost entirely of Beatles and Rolling Stones covers. In 1966-’67, he was working with three bands: Slaviane, Los Panchos and Skify (Скифы – The Scythians). However, he found himself disagreeing with his Slaviane bandmates over the direction the band should take. Gradsky wanted to perform original rock songs in his native Russian language, whereas the other band members did not think that such endeavours could be successful and wanted to continue performing imported songs.

Gradsky consequently decided to form his own band, Skomorokhi (Скоморохи – The Jesters or The Buffoons) in 1967. His band became popular playing original Russian songs, as Gradsky blended elements of Western rock music with the lyric-centred, folk-influenced Russian bard music which was popular around that time. He enrolled in Gnesin Music Academy in 1969, and continued to perform with Skomorokhi while a student. A successful performance at the Soviet pop-rock festival Silver Strings was followed with airplay and record deals.