Wow. Who wrote it? What was it originally? And what did it become? Solving the puzzle about the origins of this song is a bit like the Russian dolls where one is hidden inside another. Usually a song is written by one or more songwriters producing the lyrics and music. "Midnight is Moscow" had a decidedly unusual beginning. Here’s what we think happened.
In 1955 two experienced Russian creators, Vasily Solovyov-Sedoi [composer] and Mikhail Matusovsky [lyrics] wrote a song called "Leningrad Nights," Leningrad being another Russian city. But a powerful force requested a change. The Soviet Ministry of Culture thought something about evenings in Moscow might be more appropriate, and so the lyrics and title were changed. Some of the variations in the English translations of the Russian lyrics are listed above.
Vladimir Troshin was the singer/actor who first recorded "Moscow Nights," giving the song its initial burst of fame.
Then some bizarre things occurred. The tune won first prize in an international song competition held in Moscow in 1957. It became a hit in China. From 1964 in the old Soviet Union, the tune has been played on radio every 30 minutes as part of the time signal. It was pretty damn hard not to know this melody.
In 1961 the British jazz group, Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen, recorded an instrumental version called "Midnight in Moscow." They even played it when on tour in Moscow. It did extremely well on the charts of the Western world. As recently as 2008, the Russian singer Vitas recorded a second version of the song. It again enjoyed great success and again in China; proof positive that songs can cross borders and cultures in both the East and the West.
In the 2008 Olympics, the winning rhythmic gymnast used "Midnight in Moscow" as the music for her gold medal performance. Some songs just hang around.
Visiting Moscow at midnight may have its attractions, but during the day in the warmer months the city offers a feast of events and sites. You could spend a day exploring the famous Red Square, the Kremlin, and St Basil’s Cathedral. Many of the buildings in the Kremlin are open to tourists.
The Bolshoi Theater has recently been re-furbished and you can see either the famous ballet or opera in this magnificent 2,000 seat auditorium.
Many cities boast an underground railway system, but the Metro in Moscow is exceptional. It is not only outstanding for its ability to carry you around the city, but its stations are a tourist site in themselves. Think art gallery for tube station and you’ll get an idea of the unusual nature of this public transport system.
The song "Midnight in Moscow" had an unusual beginning, and its fame continues today, along with its fascinating city namesake. ~ Cenarth Fox