Boris Kozhevnikov (1906-1985) was a prolific composer of music for Soviet bands. He attended the Kharkov Music-Dramatic Institute, where he studied composition and conducting, graduating in 1933. He later attended the Military School of Music in Moscow. He was the conductor at several theaters and a faculty member of the Moscow Conservatory. He wrote a handful of orchestral works and over 70 pieces for Soviet military bands, including 5 numbered symphonies for band. His music was discovered by the west only after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain in the 1990s. He is still much better known in Russia than anywhere else, although his Symphony no. 3, Slavyanskaya, enjoys popularity in the US thanks to an edition that former Marine Band commander John R. Bourgeois created for American bands in 1995.
Slavyanskaya is a fairly conventional Russian-sounding symphony in four movements. The first is at times aggressive and lyrical, opening with a strong F-minor declamation. The second is a slow waltz with an exuberant episode in its coda. A spritely piccolo solo opens the 3rd movement, a rondo which whizzes by at lightning speed. The fourth movement is an exuberant finale. Throughout the symphony, Kozhevnikov uses folk tunes from his native city of Novgorod as the sources of his melodic material. Although Kozhevnikov wrote Slavyanskaya in 1950, it did not receive its first performance in the US until the late 1990s.
The word “Slavyanskaya” in Russian (Славянская) appears to be nothing more than a proper name. It’s also applied to a public square in Moscow, a fancy Radisson hotel also in Moscow, and a Russian brand of vodka.
Here’s the definitive American performance of Slavyanskaya. It’s “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band conducted by John R. Bourgeois, who edited the piece for American bands and was the first to conduct it in the US.