Tatiana Makushina

Picture of Tatiana Makushina

As different from night to day was Tatiana Makushina, the Russian singer, who came to Glasgow in the same year. Makushina was a woman of middle age, almost black eyes and a dark complexion, giving the impression of a dark and sombre nature, and all the expected gifts of a dramatic soprano. She belonged to the Russia of pre-Soviet days, called herself a "White Russian", and spoke longingly of her country as it was before the Revolution. She would talk for hours of her "Dear Czar and Czarina" and it seemed to all who listened to her that her heart had been left there behind, but still that nothing would induce her to go back.

Makushina was somewhat heavily built, very matronly looking and nondescript in her daily dress. One felt she would be much more at home with a baking board than on the concert platform - but that was only until she came on to the platform. From the moment she began to get dressed for the concert a change came over her.

Gone was the almost slow lumbering, sleepily moving figure, and in its place came a quick, vital, fussy, temperamental woman. Nervously toying with the music of her songs, doing her hair and at the same time singing scales, humming the difficult passages over and over again, muttering in Russian exclamations of irritation (it sounded most satisfying) whenever anything did not please her, and at last telling me she was now ready to go. Her face had lost the sad frustrated look, and in its place was a bright expectant look of anticipation and her dark eyes glistened like black luminous paint. When we arrived at the concert and were waiting in the artists room she kept asking me if she had plenty of time to get ready. Assuming that all she had to do was slip off her fur jacket, I said that there was no need for her to fuss. That's all I knew about it. The item before her had finished and the player was taking a re-call. I told her she was next and opened the door to allow the previous artist to come through. I waited a minute then opened it again to let her pass to the stage. I stood with the door open. I stood! First of all she took off one scarf from her head, then another scarf around her neck, then another under that, then her fur jacket, then a cardigan, then another cardigan, and still yet another. For someone born and brought up in Russia she seemed to feel it amazingly cold in Scotland. She did not slip them off quickly, but slowly and deliberately, laying them down systematically in the rotation in which she would replace them, quite oblivious to the fact that this disrobing process took quite five minutes. Quite satisfied that her hair and dress were both now in order she sailed forth into the hall with the air of a conquering battleship. After singing a generous group of contemporary songs, literally bringing the house down, she was brought back again and again. We hopefully waited for an encore. I must confess I rather hoped she would sing something 'un-contemporary', and almost as if she read my thoughts she announced that she "Would sing a song in Eenglish, a leetle seemple song called "O Dear what can the matter be". It was the most delightful rendering of a nursery song that I (and I think the audience too), had ever listened to. She sang, she acted, she was love-sick, she was forlorn that Johnny didn’t come back with the ribbons. I think I am right in saying that it was my special request that she repeated it when she sang with the Scottish Orchestra the following evening.

Editors note: very few recordings of Tatiana Makushina exist and Erik did not play any at his lecture. I have included an early recording of Tatiana singing a song by Medtner "The Butterfly".