Daniel Dolski

“A man who entertains Kaunas”, a newspaper Diena described Daniel Dolski (1891–1931). Many people associate this talented artist with the whole interwar period in Lithuania. How was it possible that a Jew born in Vilnius and having spent only two years in Kaunas, in the beginning not even knowing Lithuanian language, could become a father of Lithuanian estrade music? Fabled singer debuted together with the celebrated Alexander Vertinsky, he was a favourite of St. Petersburg and Moscow audiences. After the Bolshevik overthrow, he moved to Riga, appeared with the orchestra of Oskar Srok, the ‘king of tango’. The singer came to Lithuania around 1929. To the provisional capital the newcomer from St. Petersburg and Berlin brought a splendid example of a musician’s image – was elegant and educated. He started singing in musical programmes in Versalis and Metropolis restaurants soon becoming famous. For his repertoire he often picked works that were popular at the time and having learned Lithuanian surprisingly quickly, assisted by poet Ričardas Mironas, wrote texts for them. Dolski was quick to grasp the nature of Lithuanian new generation. His witty monologues and parodies were apt to the issues of the day. He not only provided popular schlagers with the Lithuanian content, but also extolled the beauty of Lithuanian women. The artist was not endowed with a unique voice, but his diction was impeccable. Sometimes his singing transformed into expressive declamation – a master of compilation. Audience was mesmerized by his manner of narration, mimics, facial deformations and imagination. The artist left sixteen LP’s recorded for Homocord (Berlin) and Columbia (London), which enjoy popularity to this day.

Rūta Skudienė

Daniel Dolski - Lithuanian maiden

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Daniel Dolski - Lithuanian maiden

Daniel Dolski - I adore the cornflowers of summer

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Daniel Dolski - I adore the cornflowers of summer

Biography

“A man who entertains Kaunas”, a newspaper Diena described Daniel Dolski (1891–1931). Up to this day many people associate this talented artist with the whole interwar period in Lithuania. How was it possible that a Jew born in Vilnius and having spent only two years in Kaunas, in the beginning not even knowing Lithuanian language, could become a father of Lithuanian entertainment music? Due to Soviets’ practice to methodically exterminate all the ‘bourgeois’ attributes of independent Lithuania, there is very little information available about Dolski’s biography – only a few facts.

 

Dolski was born in Vilnius to a family of Jewish entrepreneur. Before the WWI he studied law at the St. Petersburg University, was fluent in Latin, Hebrew, French, German, Spanish and Italian, studied philosophy, attended a private acting studio. He took part in the soirees of rich merchants and aristocrats, in 1914 debuted at the summer stage together with the celebrated Alexander Vertinsky. In the advertisements he was described as a favourite of St. Petersburg and Moscow audiences. He was 23 at the time. Before the Bolshevik overthrow in 1917, Dolski sang in Ville Rode, a luxurious restaurant in St. Petersburg, which was frequented by Gregory Rasputin, the favourite of the tsar family. During that period the artist also toured in other Russian cities. After the Bolshevik overthrow, he moved to Riga, appeared with the orchestra of Oskar Srok, the ‘king of tango’. In 1923, he left for Berlin where he performed as both singer and actor in restaurants and the soirees of Russian emigrants. He greatly suffered loss of the fame he earned in St. Petersburg. While living in Berlin, he appeared as Prince Kurbski’s servant in Vladimir Strizhevski’s film Adjutant des Zaren (Tsar’s Adjutant, 1928), which went on release in 1929.

 

Meeting with violinist Daniel Pomerantz, a Kaunas resident studying in Berlin at the time, prompted Dolski’s decision to come to Kaunas. The singer came to Lithuania around 1929. To the provisional capital the newcomer from St. Petersburg and Berlin brought a splendid example of a musician’s image – was handsome, flexible and sensitive, elegant and educated. He started singing in musical programmes in Versailles and Metropolis restaurants soon becoming famous. For his repertoire he often picked works that were popular at the time and having learned Lithuanian surprisingly quickly, assisted by poet Ričardas Mironas, wrote texts for them. And he did it creatively, suggestively, and in good style and taste. Many of his songs including Leisk man, lietuvaite (Allow Me, Dear Lithuanian), Palangos jūroj (In the Sea of Palanga), Aš myliu vasaros rugiagėles (I Adore the Summer Cornflowers), Elyte, tu meili (Elyte, You are Lovely) became the hits of the Lithuanian entertainment music. Dolski was quick to grasp the nature of Lithuanian new generation. His witty monologues and parodies were apt to the issues of the day (Su armonika į Braziliją (To Brazil with Harmonica), Gegužinė (May Fest), monologues Kaip mes su Jonu operą žiūrėjom (How Jonas and Me Watched the Opera), Amerikos lietuvių priėmimas Kumpiškiuose (Welcoming of American Lithuanians in Kumpiškiai), Nuovadoje (At the Police Station), Trečios klasės vagone (In the Third Class Train Car). Leading hedonistic lifestyle, the officials of the day were craving for new experiences and entertainment. Dolski has fully met their expectations. He not only provided popular schlagers with the Lithuanian content, but also extolled the beauty of Lithuanian women; his lyrical, mildly erotic texts list Lithuanian feminine names – Onytė, Marytė, Katrytė...
 
Press of the day wrote: “Versailles’ hall is full every night. [...] Truly, he is extraordinarily talented man, who not only managed Lithuanian language in six month, but also developed an idiosyncratic genre of Lithuanian couplet and narration that we did not have up to this day. What were we able to hear in so called ‘little stages’ before Dolski? We listened to programmes in all kinds of languages, but Lithuanian. And if it were Lithuanian, I would rather not mention it. And those Lithuanian artists who could serve ‘little stage’ don’t do it for they are fully engaged on the grand stage.”

 

The artist was not endowed with a unique voice, but his diction was impeccable. Sometimes his singing transformed into expressive declamation – a master of compilation, he engaged his every talent to reach an utmost projection. Audience was mesmerized by his manner of narration, mimics, facial deformations and imagination. “To be able to control oneself to such a degree, to generate pure and natural laughter that would infect the audience, to make it cry from laughing – this weapon of Dolski was valuable and noble.” (Septynios meno dienos, 1931, No. 75)

 

The artist left an invaluable document of his art – sixteen LP’s recorded for Homocord (Berlin) and Columbia (London) with Metropolis, Homocord and Y. Nikolayevsky orchestras. Dolski died in Kaunas. Heated after the performance in Versailles café he had a glass of cold beer and contracted pneumonia; he died suddenly, after just a few days of sickness. He is buried in the Old Jewish Cemetery in Kaunas. Among the attendees of Dolski’s funeral was Kipras Petrauskas, who had in the past advised Dolski to go to London and record his songs.

 

In December 2007, a monument in memory of Daniel Dolski was erected in front of the formerly famous Metropolis in Kaunas. Financed by the pop music performers and phonogram producers – members of the AGATA (the Lithuanian Neighouring Rights Association) – the bronze statue of 1.75 m height was created by sculptor Romas Kvintas.

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