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Isaac Osipovich Dunayevsky (1900-1955)

Jewish Russian composer and conductor Isaac Dunayevsky was USSR’s most popular creator of light music and the first Soviet musician to consistently use jazz in his compositions. A graduate of Kharkov Conservatory in 1919, he conducted big bands from the 1920s till 1934, when he settled in Moscow and worked primarily in films and operetta. World War II saw him at the front entertaining the troops with his own band and composing many patriotic songs.

During the 1948 purge of Soviet composers, along with Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Khachaturian, he was accused of "cosmopolitanism”.

Although no innovator, Dunayevsky developed a personal style of cheerful music and catchy tunes that blended jazz, Russian folk and Viennese operetta.

He wrote hundreds of compositions for the theatre, ballet, choir, orchestras, and – most famously – film, collaborating with popular film director Grigory Alexandrov, with whom he virtually created the Soviet musical-comedy genre. His most famous songs came from the movies, including the huge musical hits Jolly Fellows, Circus, and, allegedly Stalin’s favorite, Volga-Volga.