Nikolaj Konstantinovich Pechkovskij

13 (25) January 1896 Moscow – 24 November 1966 Leningrad
Nikolaj Konstantinovich Pechkovskij studied singing with L. D. Donskoj. In 1918, he joined the opera studio of K. S. Stanislavskij. From 1924 to 1941, he was a leading soloist of the Kirov. Pechkovskij created a series of unique interpretations: Lenskij, Otello, Werther, Rodolfo, and his most appreciated part: German.

He also was much praised for his interpretation of chamber music by Glinka, Dargomyzhskij, Chajkovskij, Rachmaninoff etc., works by Soviet composers, national songs, and Russian romances.

Fatal for the singer was the Second World War when, due to unforeseen circumstances, Pechkovskij appeared and sang in occupied territory. The war caught Pechkovskij in a village south of Leningrad with a seriously ill mother. At the behest of Andrej Aleksandrovich Zhdanov (1896–1948, Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR), a car was sent with Zhdanov's personal driver to rescue Pechkovskij. The driver failed in his mission and upon his return, so as to save his own skin, slandered Pechkovskij saying that he had refused to return. And though Pechkovskij sang under the Nazi occupiers so as to earn a living, he was no traitor.

He helped guerrillas pass valuable information to the Soviet command, he rescued compatriots from death. Nevertheless, immediately after his alleged defection, his wife – a soprano at the Malij Theater – was jailed to death, and his adopted son – a budding actor – was shot by the Soviet authorities. Back in Soviet-controlled territory after the war, Pechkovskij was condemned on the false accusation of collaboration with the fascists, and was sent to the Gulag until 1954. He was even personally questioned by Beria.

He was never rehabilitated, but he was allowed to sing again in concert and opera, albeit only in second-rate venues, primarily in provincial towns. In his last years, he ran a vocal studio for amateur singers at the Leningrad Recreation Center.

Pechkovskij died on November 24th, 1966. Only at the turn of the century, his popularity began to come back. In 1992, his memoirs were published, followe by a CD in 1994.
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Pechkovskij was People's Artist of the Russian Soviet and Federative Socialist Republic (1939). Began on the stages of Moscow's dramatic theatres in 1910. In 1914 he started his career as a singer, as a pupil of L. D. Donskoj. In 1921 he joined the workshop of the Bolshoj Theater directed by K. S. Stanislavskij, who had a great influence on the development of Pechkovskij's operatic personality.

In 1922, he began on Moscow's opera stage. From 1924 until 1941 he was the leading soloist of the Leningrad Kirov Theatre Opera and Ballet.

Great dramatic tension is typical of Pechkovskij's best-known roles: German, Otello, José, and Canio.

In 1939 he became the head of the new branch of the Kirov Theater, where he staged a number of operas.

In 1941, German forces took over the region in which he was living. In 1944, he was arrested by the Soviet authorities and spent ten years in prison camps, to be released in 1954.

In 1956, he returned to Leningrad, though he was not accepted by any theatre and worked independently at the Tsjurupa Recreation Centre.

In 1966 he gave a few concerts in Moscow and Leningrad. He wrote Recollections of an Opera Singer (St. Petersburg, 1992). Between 1926 and 1941 he lived at 4 Lermontovskij Avenue (memorial plaque installed).
Reference: E. V. Tretyakova

The tenor Pechkovskij was the rival of Kozlovskyj and Lemeshev. And of Neljepp, above all, who sang in Leningrad like Pechkovskij, and was deeply rooted in the Communist party at Stalin's time. Pechkovskij was declared undesirable by the people's government, because during the world war, he found himself in German occupied territories and in order to survive, he had to sing for the Germans.

After the war the all-powerful KGB minister Abakumov sent Pechkovskij to the Gulag. This cad had not forgotten his quarrel with Pechkovskij in 1933, when he was just a private of the KGB. It goes without saying that mentioning Pechkovskij's name was a no-no in the USSR for many years.

Keeping his records at one's home could cost the owner his life, or many years of incarceration, so the records were destroyed (only few remain), their fame forgotten. The worst was the total destruction of the matrices of a not yet published complete Otello that Pechkovskij had recorded before the war, after a successful run of performances at the Mariinskij.

No books could even mention the name of the traitor, and he became a non-person in both the USSR and, correspondingly, in the rest of the world.

Pechkovskij recorded 23 sides for the SSSR label; among the operatic items, arias from Pagliacci, Pikovaja dama, and La muette de Portici.
Vladimir Gurvich

Nikolaj Pechkovskij singsPikovaja dama: Prosti, nebesnoe sozdanye
In RA format

Nikolaj Pechkovskij singsPikovaja dama: Chto nasha zhizn?
In RA format

Nikolaj Pechkovskij singsRafaehl: Strastyu i negoju serdtse trepeshchet
In RA format

Nikolaj Pechkovskij singsPagliacci: Vesti la giubba, in Russian
In RA format

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