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Asparuh “Ari” Leshnikoff

Ari Leschnikoff grew up in Haskovo and in 1916 attended a cadet school in Sofia. At the end of World War 1, he became a lieutenant.

In 1922 he emigrated to Germany to study music there. To finance his livelihood, he also worked as a waiter in the Bulgarian student restaurant “Bei Kirow” in Berlin.

In 1926 Ari got a contract in the Great Theater as a choir singer. In the choir he met Robert Biberti and Roman Cycowski. At the turn of the year 1927-28, the Melody Makers were founded in Berlin on the initiative of Harry Frommermann. After a few months they were renamed the Comedian Harmonists.

Through Robert Biberti, Ari came to this ensemble in March 1928, where he replaced the 1st tenor Louis Kaliger. When the Comedian Harmonists split up in 1935 because the three Jewish members were forced to emigrate, Ari first took part in the successor group Meistersextett with Robert Biberti and Erwin Bootz and the new members Fred Kassen, Walther Blanke and Richard Sengeleitner. When Bootz left the group in 1938 and Ari, after a dispute, denounced Robert Biberti to the Gestapo for statements critical of the regime, this group also fell apart. Since he was in debt to Robert Biberti, he transferred his share of the group’s royalties to him.

In 1939 he tried his luck one last time in Germany as a solo singer, but returned to Sofia in 1940. There he had some recordings made by the record company Mikrophon. Finally, in 1941, he was drafted as a captain. With his savings, he bought a four-story apartment building in Sofia, which was completely destroyed in a bombing raid in 1944.

His wife divorced him in 1947 and took their son Simon with her. In 1952 Ari married a second time. He worked as a gardener and in a factory to support the family. In 1978, at the age of 81, he died in poverty in Sofia. In the last years of his life he had unsuccessfully asked Robert Biberti in numerous letters to let him share in the royalties of the Comedian Harmonists again.

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