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  • Earthling 1:25 pm on 18th March 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Great music teacher, Greatest Russian composers, marine composer, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Russian composer, sailor-composer, Scheherazade, teacher of Arensky, Teacher of Glazunov, Teacher of Lysenko, Teacher of Prokofiev, teacher of Stravinsky, The Five, The Mighty Handful   

    Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov 

    Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (Born on March 18, 1844 in Tikhvin, Russia — Died on June 21, 1908 in Lyubensk, Russia) was a Russian composer and teacher known for his role in creating uniquely Russian music. He was a member of “The Five” or “The Mighty Handful”, a group of five prominent Russian composers who created nationalistic music. He is especially known for his symphonic works, such as Scheherazade.
    Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was born in Tikhvin, Novgorod, in 1844. His younger brother Voin had been born 22 years before. His father was Andrey Rimsky-Korsakov, a governor of Volyn Province and amateur pianist. His mother Sofya Rimsky-Korsakov played the piano competently. Nikolai’s earliest musical inspiration and education came from his parents.
    As a child, Rimsky-Korsakov displayed musical talent. He composed some songs in his childhood. Nevertheless, he wanted to become a naval officer. He entered the Sea Cadet Corps in St. Petersburg in 1865. He studied music with various teachers, notably including the pianist Fyodor Kanille from 1859-60.
    Rimsky-Korsakov attended various operas and symphonic performances during this time. His teacher Kanille introduced him to the famous composer Miliy Balakirev, who in turn brought him into contact with Modest Mussorgsky, Cesar Cui, and Aleksandr Borodin. It was this group, including Rimsky-Korsakov, that later came to be known as the “The Five” or “The Mighty Handful”, a group of prominent Russian nationalist composers. Balakirev and his friends greatly influenced Rimsky-Korsakov and inspired him to move more in the direction of music.
    Rimsky-Korsakov graduated in 1862 and spent two and a half years at sea. He traveled to England, France, Italy, the USA, and more. He continued to compose during his spare time and completed his first symphony, which was published in 1865. Rimsky-Korsakov’s first symphony was conducted by Balakirev. It was highly praised and considered the first great Russian symphony. In the following years he produced several great hits, notably Sadko and Symphony No. 2.
    Due to his continual success and encouragement from his composer friends, Rimsky-Korsakov moved more in the direction of a musical career. In 1871, he became the professor of composition, orchestration, and harmony at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. The next year, he completed opera The Maid of Pskov, which was a huge success. In 1873, he became a Navy Orchestra Inspector. He held this post until 1884.
    In 1872, Rimsky-Korsakov married a pianist named Nadezhda Purgold. They had a happy marriage, performed music together, and had seven children.
    Rimsky-Korsakov suffered from creative writer’s block from 1881 to 1888. Then in 1892, he had a nervous breakdown relating to the death of his mother and one of his children, as well as the severe illness of another child, Masha, who passed away in 1893. He returned to the musical scene in 1894 and became the foremost musical figure in Russia, due to the others (Mussorgsky, Borodin, Tchaikovsky) passing away.
    During the mass unrest in Russia from 1905-1906, Rimsky-Korsakov supported some students of the St. Petersburg who had been expelled for protesting. He was thereafter fired and his music was banned for several months. After a few months of public pressure, his music was allowed again and he was given his position again.
    Rimsky-Korsakov passed away in 1908 from throat and lung disease.
    Musical Style and Legacy
    Rimsky-Korsakov is known as one of Russia’s greatest composers and a master of orchestral music. He took influence from Russian folk music and created a uniquely Russian brand of classical music along with other members of “The Five”, a group led by Miliy Balakirev.
    Rimsky-Korsakov taught several of Russia’s most famous composers. Among his pupils were Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Anton Arensky, Alexander Glazunov, Nikolai Myaskovsky, Mykola Lysenko, Nikolai Sokolov.
    Early in his career, Rimsky-Korsakov was opposed to Western compositional methods. In 1870s he changed his attitude and spent three years studying Western methods, which he then incorporated into his own music and teachings.
    Article written by me for Lunyr

  • Earthling 12:51 am on 7th September 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Famous Russian composer, Prokofiev, Russian composer, Sergei Prokofiev,   

    Sergei Prokoiev 

    Sergei Prokofiev (Born April 23, 1891 in Donetsk, Ukraine — Died March 5, 1953 in Moscow, Russia) was a Russian modernist composer, pianist and conductor who is known for his original and inventive works. Prokofiev composed several masterpieces across different musical genres. He is by far one of the most famous 20th century composers and his music is widely played across the world to this day.
    Early years and education
    Prokofiev was born in 1891 Sontsovka now known as Krasne, in Donetsk in the Ukraine. He was an only child, since his sisters had died in infancy. His father was an agricultural engineer, and his mother was a pianist.
    Prokofiev had great interest in music. His first piano lessons came from his mother. He began composing around age five. In 1902, he began taking private compositions lessons. His mother also arranged for him to go to the opera in Moscow. In Moscow, the great composer and teacher Sergei Taneyev recommended Prokofiev to the great composer Reinhold Gliere, who then went to Sontsovka twice to teach Prokofiev piano, music theory, and composition.
    In 1904, Prokofiev went to St. Petersburg and entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory. He studied orchestration with Rimsky-Korsakovand music theory with Lyadov. He befriended his fellow student Nikolai Myaskovsky, who would also go on to become a great composer.
    Prokofiev developed a controversial reputation due to his unusual attitudes and disdain for musical conventions. His compositions were nevertheless well received. He finished his composition classes in 1909 and continued to study piano and conducting.
    First concerto and career
    In 1912, Prokofiev’s first concerto premiered in Moscow. He won a piano competition and the Anton Rubinstein Prize with this piece in 1914. Then he left the Conservatory to go to England. In England he met Sergei Diaghilev and Igor Stravinsky.
    Prokofiev returned to Russia during World War 1. He studied the organ at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. He continued composing, writing an opera and a symphony in this period. Then the Communist revolution disrupted his life and he went to the USA in May, 1918.
    Prokofiev went to San Francisco and was initially well-received in the US. He was planning a performance of his opera The Love for Three Oranges when the conductor died and the premiere was cancelled. Prokofiev was in financial difficulty and decided to go to Paris in 1920. He was well-received there, and met again with Diaghilev and Stravinsky. His opera was performed in Chicago in 1921, but poorly received.
    Prokofiev and his mother moved to Bavaria in 1921. Two years later, he married a Spanish singer named Lina Llubera. Then they moved back to Paris. Diaghilev commissioned some projects from him and he was repeatedly invited to return to Russia. In 1927, Prokofiev toured the USSR for two months.
    In the late 1920s, and early 1930s Prokofiev toured the USA and Europe with great success. He gradually started performing more and more of his premieres in Russia, and accepting more commissions from Russia rather than Paris.
    In 1936, he and his family moved back to Russia and remained in Moscow. In the Soviet Union, Prokofiev had to adapt to a more restrictive creative environment. Nevertheless, he continued to compose original pieces. He wrote music for children as well as a Communist piece, Cantata for the Twentieth Anniversary of the October Revolution.
    World War II
    During World War 2, Prokofiev was evacuated to the Caucasus along with many other composers and artists. He had an affair with the librettist Mira Mendelson and this resulted in him separating from Lina, although they did not formally divorce. Mira became his common-law wife. Lina was later arrested for espionage.
    Throughout the 1940s, Prokofiev suffered from heart attacks and then finally a concussion. His deteriorating health decreased his compositional output.
    Later years and death
    In 1948, the music of many prominent composers including Prokofiev, Myaskovsky, and Shostakovich was formally condemned by the Soviet government. Some of Prokofiev’s works were banned. He became a less prominent figure at the end of his life, and followed the same pattern as many other Soviet composers by producing more conventional and “patriotic” music. He died from a cerebral haemorrhage on March 5, 1953, the same day that Stalin died.
    Prokofiev wrote in a modern and dissonant style. His fame varied throughout his life, and grew after his death. His music is very popular today and he is widely considered one of the greatest 20th century composers.

    Article was written by me for Lunyr

  • Earthling 3:16 pm on 5th June 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Austrian composer, Felix Blumenfeld, , , , Russian composer, Teacher of Maria Grinberg, Teacher of Maria Yudina, Teacher of Simon Barere, Teacher of Vladimir Horowitz,   

    Felix Blumenfeld 

    Felix Mikhailovich Blumenfeld (Born on April 1, 1863 in Kovalevka, Ukraine — Died on January 21, 1931 in Moscow, Russia) was a Russian-Ukrainian composer, conductor, pianist, and teacher. He was of Polish and Austrian descent. He conducted many famous pieces and had a successful career as a pianist until he became paralysed from syphilis. Among his students were Vladimir Horowitz and Simon Barere. As a composer he was known and appreciated during his lifetime, but has since fallen into obscurity. He wrote mainly piano pieces in the romantic style.
    Felix Blumenfeld was born in Kovalevka in the Ukraine in 1863. His father, Mikhail Frantsevich Bluemnfeld, was Austrian, and his mother, Marie Szymanowska, was Polish. Felix’s sister Olga was the mother of Heinrich Neuhaus, the famous pianist and teacher. Felix and Neuhaus enjoyed a close friendship and mutually influenced each other throughout their lives. Felix Blumenfeld was also a cousin Karol Szymanowski, one of Poland’s most popular composers.
    In 1881, Blumenfeld went to the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he studied composition under Rimsky-Korsakov and piano under Fedor Stein. He graduated in 1885, then joined the Conservatory faculty as a piano teacher until 1918. He was also the director of the Mariinsky Theatre until 1911. He conducted many notable works at the theatre, including the premieres of Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas Servilia (1902) and Invisible City of Kitezh (1907), as well as the Russian premiere of Wagners’ Tristan und Isolde (1899). In 1908, he conducted the Paris Premiere of Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov.
    Blumenfeld also conducted some of Scriabin’s works, such as the premiere of his Divine Poem (1902), and a performance of his Poem of Ecstasy (1907). According to one anecdote, Blumenfeld met with Alexander Scriabin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Glazunov, and Josef Hofmann to discuss and study Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy and some of his piano works. They concluded that Scriabin was “out of his mind, if he had a mind at all.” [1]
    Blumenfeld played an important role in the life and career of his nephew Heinrich Neuhaus. It was under Blumenfeld’s advice that Neuhaus went to study music in Germany in 1905.
    Blumenfeld was a skilled pianist but his career as a concert pianist ended when he contracted syphilis. He was reportedly quite promiscuous, although he did marry. [1] Syphilis partially paralyzed him and prevented him from giving concerts. Prior to his incapacitation, he performed the debuts of works by prominent Russian composers such as Glazunov, Liadov, and Arensky.
    In 1918, Blumenfeld left the St. Petersburg Conservatory and became the director of the Mykola Lysenko Music-Drama School in Kiev. His most notable pupil here was Vladimir Horowitz. 1922, he left Kiev and started teaching at the Moscow Conservatory. He held his post there for the rest of his life. Heinrich Neuhaus also taught in Kiev when Blumenfeld was there, and they both transferred to the Moscow Conservatory at the same time, remaining there for the rest of their lives. Among Blumenfeld’s notable pupils were Vladimir Horowitz, Simon Barere, Maria Yudina, and Maria Grinberg.
    Blumenfeld was popular during his lifetime, but faded into obscurity after his death. Among his works are many piano pieces, some chamber pieces, a symphony, and an Allegro de Concert for piano and orchestra. He wrote in a romantic style.
    Notable Works
    Etudes fantasies Op. 25
    String Quartet Op. 26
    Ballade Op. 34
    A la memoire des chers defunct Op. 39 (Symphony)
    Sonata-Fantasie Op. 46
    Episodes dans la vie d’une danseuse Op. 52

    [1] https://musicalics.com/en/node/78861
    Article written by me for Lunyr

  • Earthling 7:59 pm on 31st May 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alexander Scriabin, Russian composer   

    Alexander Scriabin 

    Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin (born December 25, 1871, Moscow, Russia — died April 14, 1915, Moscow, Russia) was a Russian composer and pianist known for his originality and mysticism. His career began with Romantic-style works in the vein of Chopin and Liszt, and his later works increasingly involved a personal brand of mysticism and a distinct “atonal” style, which he developed independently of Schoenberg and the Second Vienna School. He also wrote poetry and considered himself a philosopher and spiritual reformer, although these occupations were not met with the same widespread acclaim as his music.

    Alexander Scriabin’s mother, Lyubov Petrovna Scriabina, was a successful pianist. She died when Alexander was one year old. Alexander’s father, Nikolai Scriabin, was a successful diplomat who spent most of his time abroad.
    Scriabin was raised by his grandmother and aunts. He went to cadet school and studied music on the side. Later, he underwent rigorous musical training. He was taught first by the composer Georgy Konyus, and then by the famous teacher Nikolai Zverev. Scriabin learned alongside his contemporary Sergei Rachmaninoff, who also went on to become a famous composer. Scriabin later went to the Moscow Conservatory, still alongside Rachmaninoff, and they learned from Sergei Taneyev, Vasily Safonov, and Anton Arensky. It was under the tutelage of these composers and teachers that Scriabin began his career as a composer, producing works that notably followed in the footsteps of Chopin and Liszt. They also studied the works of Wagner, which Scriabin would later draw inspiration from in his own works.
    Near the end of his schooling, Scriabin injured his right hand from practicing the piano too much. His hand was paralyzed to the point where he could hardly use it. He considered this event as a great tragedy and turning point in his life, wherein his faith in Orthodox Christianity was shaken. He developed a deeper interest in philosophy, reading Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and others, and feeling especially drawn towards Nietzsche. During this period he composed his first sonata, featuring a tragic funeral march as its finale, as well as the famous Prelude Op. 9 No. 1 for the left hand only. He developed a strong musical ability with his left hand, which manifested itself in the complex left-hand parts of his future works.
    Scriabin graduated from the conservatory in 1892 and embarked on his career as a professional pianist-composer. He also spent a lot of time socializing and became a notorious alcoholic. Later on he stopped drinking alcohol, but his former teacher Safonov remarked that he drank so much during this period that he became permanently drunk. Scriabin agreed with this remark, and added that he was drunk in a spiritual way.
    Scriabin gave successful concerts in Russia and Europe. In 1897, he married Vera Isakovich, a successful pianist who supported Scriabin’s career and performed his pieces. In 1898, he became a piano professor at the Moscow Conservatory. He taught his pupils a style of playing that has been described as “neurotic”. He was known for criticizing some famous composers whose works he did not highly value: Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, etc.; his fatigue with their music was one of the reasons his quit his post at the conservatory in 1902.
    By the turn of the century, Scriabin had decisively split with Christianity and embraced a Nietzsche-inspired art-centric philosophy. He also began to conceive of what would later be called the “Mysterium”, a hypothetical perfect and all-encompassing synesthetic work of art that was intended to bring about universal salvation and enlightenment for mankind. His personal philosophy revolved around art, and especially his own art, as an embodiment of the divine and a means of liberation and enlightenment.
    After leaving the conservatory in 1902, Scriabin moved to France in 1903. In 1904, Scriabin left his wife and their four children. Vera continued to perform Scriabin’s music until her death in 1920. Scriabin began a common-law marriage with Tatyana Schloezer, and he also had other affairs on the side. Scriabin and Tatyana had two children, including Julian Scriabin, who followed in his father’s footsteps by composing four piano preludes. Julian died young in a boating accident shortly after his father.
    In 1905, Scriabin developed an interest in Theosophy. His idea of the Mysterium consequently changed. Previously, it had been conceived of as a one-man act that would be carried out by himself. After entering his Theosophist phase, Scriabin began to consider the Mysterium more as a collective project requiring everyone’s participation, although Scriabin would still have the central role. He also became more focused on creating the Mysterium, and began to think out the details. It was planned to take place in India at a special temple for the purpose, featuring synesthetic combinations of different arts and senses, and it would ultimately draw in all of mankind.
    After leaving the conservatory, Scriabin’s music became increasingly “atonal” or “pan-tonal”. His last five sonatas are not written in any key. His music increasingly revolved around several chords, and especially the “Mystic Chord”. This chord is prominently featured in his orchestral work Prometheus from 1910. Prometheus was originally intended to be the Mysterium, but it ended up being published as a milestone instead.
    Scriabin moved back to Moscow, Russia in 1910. During this latter part of his life he was increasingly preoccupied with the Mysterium. He began to work on the Mysterium’s first phase, called the Prefatory Act. He also drifted away from Blavatskian Theosophy, or was “driven away” entirely according to his friend Schloezer, due to the musical tastelessness and lack of appreciation of the arts among theosophists. Scriabin instead leaned more towards the Symbolist movement, and was particularly influenced by his symbolist poet friends. Among these were Vyacheslav Ivanov and Jurgis Baltrushaitis, who helped Scriabin improve the poetic text of the Prefatory Act.
    Scriabin died suddenly in 1915 from septicemia as the result of a shaving cut on his lip. The text of the Prefatory Act was largely finished, whereas from the music only scattered fragments have come down to us. His death was widely mourned. To commemorate him, his friend Sergei Rachmaninoff performed a series of all-Scriabin concerts throughout Russia.
    Scriabin associated color with sound in a special way, and it has been debated whether he actually experienced synesthesia directly. He produced a scheme matching colors with tones, and eventually worked this into his Prometheus. Performances of Prometheus today sometimes feature color displays to accompany the music, but this was hardly done during his lifetime. A performance in New York City in 1915 before he died did include a “color organ”. Scriabin’s ambitions went much further than this, as he envisioned his final Mysterium involving every sense, including taste and touch, in a coordinated artistic whole.
    Musical Style and Legacy
    Scriabin is considered a pioneer of atonality, although he did not speak of his music this way or have any relation with Schoenberg and the Second Viennese School. Scriabin’s early music was most notably influenced by Chopin and Liszt. Wagner also influenced him during his middle period, during which he produced three symphonies. During his later “atonal” period, he went in a more original direction driven by his personal mystical vision. This music revolved around several chords, and especially the “Mystic Chord”, or as Scriabin called it, the “chord of the pleroma”. This chord consists of C, F♯, B♭, E, A, and D. It is made up of fourths, and has been interpreted in a variety of ways.
    Scriabin considered himself to have substantially achieved his musical goals, which he described as “expressing the inexpressible”. He regarded his music as vastly superior to that of other composers. He said that “melody is harmony unfurled”, and reflected this in his later music by blurring the distinction between the two.
    Scriabin’s philosophical, spiritual, and mystical ideas are expressed in his musical instructions and in poems he wrote to accompany some of his pieces. Scriabin considered artistic creativity to be inherently linked to sexuality. Eroticism and sensuality prominently feature in some of his music, and most notably in his “Poem of Ecstasy”, which was originally called “Orgiastic Poem”. Other such pieces include “Desire” and “Danced Caress”. Other pieces of his have been described as “dark” or even “satanic”, such as his sixth and ninth sonatas, whereas his seventh sonata has been described as an “exorcism”.
    Scriabin wrote five symphonies (including the Poem of Ecstasy and Prometheus), ten sonatas, and dozens of preludes, “poems”, and etudes. His music is widely performed and appreciated to this day. Composers notably influenced by Scriabin include Nikolai Roslavets, Samuel Feinberg, and Alexander Nemtin. Nemtin produced his own interpretation of the Mysterium based on Scriabin’s sketches.

    Scriabin: A Biography (New York: Dover Publications, 1996), by Faubion Bowers,
    The New Scriabin: Enigma and Answers (New York: Dover 1996), by Faubion Bowers
    Scriabin: Artist and Mystic (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), by Boris Schloezer, trans. Nicolas Slominsky
    “Scriabin and Russian Symbolism.” Comparative Literature 31, No. 1 (1979), Ralph Matlaw
    The Mysterium of Alexander Scriabin, by Zebulon Goertzel (Dissertation for Marlboro College)
    Article written by me for Lunyr (https://lunyr.com/article/Alexander%20Scriabin)

  • Earthling 9:57 am on 29th May 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: influenced by scriabin, Ivan Wyschnegradsky, microtonal, microtonal composer, microtonal music, microtonal piano, pioneer of microtonal music, pioneer of ultrachromaticism, Russian composer, successor of scriabin, ultrachromatic composer, ultrachromaticism   

    Ivan Wyschnegradsky 

    Ivan Wyschnegradsky (Born on May, 1893 in St. Petersburg, Russia — Died on September 29, 1979 in Paris, France) was a Russian composer known for his microtonal (or ultrachromatic, as he called it) music. He left Russia in the 1920s in search of a quarter-tonal piano, and ended up settling in Paris for the rest of his life.
    Wyschnegradsky was born and raised in St. Petersburg. He studied harmony, composition, and orchestration under Nikolai Sokolov, a student of Rimsky-Korsakov. The most influential figure in his life was Alexander Scriabin, who he considered his spiritual master. [1] Like Scriabin, he also took inspiration from Nietzsche, Wagner, Vedantic ideas, Theosophy, and the Symbolist artistic movement. Wyschnegradsky’s early compositions were debuted in 1914 and earned the interest of Russian avant-garde circles.
    In 1916, Wyschnegradsky had and profound spiritual experience which inspired him to pursue the goal of “Creating a work capable of awakening in every man the slumbering forces of cosmic consciousness.” This inspiration came only a year and a half after the death of Alexander Scriabin. Scriabin had died while in a state of intense preoccupation with the completion of the Mysterium, his planned all-encompassing apocalyptic synesthetic work of art that was intended to enlighten all of mankind and bring about the destruction of this world and its replacement with a new one. Scriabin fell short of his goal, but he left behind some disciples and sketches for the first phase of the Mysterium, titled the Prefatory Act.
    Wyschnegradsky composed this work in 1916 and 1917 and called it La Journée de l’Existence. It was a symphonic work with a poem for a narrator, which shows a clear influence from Scriabin. It was not performed until 1978.
    Wyschnegradsky was enthused for the Communist revolution of 1917 and wrote a number of revolutionary songs.
    Wyschnegradsky decided that transcendence in music requires using increasingly small intervals to approach unlimited density. He set about theorizing musical systems that would use quarter-tones, third-tones, sixth-tones, and twelfth-tones: “ultrachromaticism”. To achieve this, in 1918 he took two pianos and had one tuned a quarter-tone above the other. The experimented with this new mode of music and began composing quarter-tonal works.
    Wyschnegradsky was not satisfied with this piano arrangement and spent around nine years in Europe seeking to have a suitable piano built. He left for Europe in 1920 and settled in Paris in 1923. He married Hélène Benois, the daughter of Alexandre Benois. They had one son and then divorced.
    Wyschnegradsky met the Czech composer Alois Hába, who was also interested in ultrachromaticism. They became close friends. Wyschnegradsky gave a concert using his two-piano quart-tonal system in Paris in 1926. He finally received a quarter-tonal piano in 1929, which was built by the Czech company Förster. He now completely devoted himself to his creative and theoretical work.
    Wyschnegradsky wrote articles for reviews and produced quarter-tonal works not only for the piano, but also for string quartets, voice, and chorus. Although he now had a quarter-tonal piano, no professional pianists were interested in learning to play one. He had to continue to produce music for two pianos, tuned a quarter-tone apart, in order for others to play it.
    In 1937, a Festival of Quarter-tone Music was held in Paris at the Salle Chopin-Pleyel, and led by Wyschnegradsky. The concert featured his Ainsi parlait Zarathustra (“Thus Spoke Zarathustra”), a four-piano symphony. The concert was well-received, and earned the praise of Charles Koechlin and Olivier Messiaen, among others.
    World War 2 interrupted Wyschnegradsky’s career. He was arrested in 1942 and was compelled by circumstances to stop producing music. His second wife, an American named Lucile, was also arrested. In 1945, Wyschnegradsky held another concert at Salle-Shopin-Pleyel. He then fell severely ill with tuberculosis and did not recover for three years. He used this time to rethink his ideas and work on his book La Loi de la Pansonorite.
    Wyschnegradsky met Julian Carrillo, a Mexican composer who had fifteen pianos in micro-tones down to a sixteenth. Wyschnegradsky wrote some works for these pianos. Nevertheless, he had become obscure. He was friends with avant-garde figures such as Olivier Messiaen and Claude Ballif, who paid him visits.
    In 1972, Claude Ballif arranged for La Revue Musicale to publish a special issue on Nikolai Obukhov and Wyschnegradsky. A Canadian pianist, Bruce Mather, began to play, conduct, and record Wyschnegradsky’s music. In 1978, Wyschnegradsky’s works were performed in Paris, including the first performance of his La Journée de l’Existence.
    Wyschnegradsky’s last work, String Trio, Op. 53, was unfinished when he died in 1979. It was completed by Claude Ballif. He is remembered as a great pioneer of microtonal or ultrachromatic music.
    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xnhbks3NzP8&w=560&h=315%5D
    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4dyKXe-fB0&w=560&h=315%5D
    [1] http://www.ivan-wyschnegradsky.fr/en/biography/
    Article written by me for Lunyr
  • Earthling 3:20 pm on 22nd May 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: German and Polish composer, Reinhold Gliere, Russian composer, Soviet classical music,   

    Reinhold Glière 

    Reinhold Moritsevich Glière (Born January 11, 1875, Kiev, Ukraine – Died June 23, 1956, Moscow, Russia) was a Russian-Ukrainian composer and teacher of German and Polish descent, known for his nationally-themed Romantic music. He was highly honored and awarded by the Soviet government, and produced works based on folk music for the Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. He taught for many years at the Moscow Conservatory and had some of Russia’s most renowned composers as his students, such as Sergei Prokofiev and Nikolai Myakovsky.
    Glière came from a musical family. His father was Ernst Moritz Flier, a maker of wind instruments. His mother was Josephine Kortschak, an instrument maker’s daughter. Their home was frequented by musicians.
    Glière began studying violin under Adolf Weinberg. Around age ten, he entered the Kiev School of Music, where he studied for three years. He studied music theory, violin and piano under E. A. Ryb, a student of Rimsky-Korsakov.
    In 1894, Glière entered the Moscow Conservatory. He learned violin from Mikhail Sokolovsky and A. Gzhimali, harmony from Anton Arensky and Georgy Konyus, counterpoint from Sergei Taneyev, and composition from Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov. He graduated in 1900, earning a gold medal for his compositional talent. By the time he graduated, he had written an opera, a quartet, an octet, and his first symphony.
    In 1900, Sergei Taneyev referred two students to Glière who were ineligible for the Conservatory for different reasons. They were Sergei Prokofiev and Nikolai Myaskovsky, both of whom would later go on to have illustrious careers as composers.
    In 1904, Glière married Maria Robertowna Renkvist. The next year, he went to Berlin to study conducting. In 1907, he studied conducting under Oskar Fried. The next year he returned to Russia and had a brief career as a conductor.
    In 1913, Glière became the director of the Kiev Conservatory. He held this post for seven years, then in 1920 he became a professor of composition as the Moscow Conservatory. He continued to hold this post until World War 2. Among his students there were Sergei Prokofiev, Aram Khachaturian, Alexander Mosolov, and Nikolai Rakov. During his time in Kiev, he taught Boris Lyatoshynksy.
    In 1923, Glière went to Azerbaijan to assist with the Soviet policy in the region. He moved to Baku and intensively studied Azerbaijani folklore and folk music. He produced an Azerbaijan-themed opera, Shah Senen, which was completed in 1925. He left Azerbaijan in 1924.
    Glière was extensively honored and awarded by the Soviet authorities, notably being named the People’s Artist of the Soviet Union. He joined the executive board of the Association of Soviet Composers in 1932. From 1938 to 1948, he was the chairman of the organizing committee of the Soviet Composers’ Union.
    In the thirties he wrote a lot of background music for plays and films. He also wrote patriotic music such as the Festival Overture to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Communist revolution, and the Friendship of the Peoples Overture to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Stalin Constitution. He also studied Uzbek folk music and produced the drama Gulsara and the opera Leili and Medjnum. Using Ukrainian themes, he produced the choreographic poem Zaporozhstsy.

    Musical Style and Legacy
    Glière wrote many pieces based on national or regional folk music. His music is written in a traditional Romantic style. He is greatly appreciated in the former USSR and less known elsewhere.
    He produced two full operas, two ballets, two concertos, three symphonies, four string quartets, and hundreds of vocal songs, piano pieces, and chamber pieces.
    Article written by me for Lunyr (https://lunyr.com/article/Reinhold%20Gli%C3%A8re)

  • Earthling 3:14 pm on 21st May 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alexander Mosolov, , Russian composer   

    Alexander Mosolov 

    Alexander Mosolov was a Russian composer (Born on July 29, 1900, in Kiev, Ukraine – Died on July 12, 1973, in Moscow, Russia) who is considered one of the principal representatives of Russian futurist music. He wrote highly original modernist music in the 1920s, then transitioned to a more conservative style due to pressure for the Soviet authorities. He instead turned to writing patriotic music and music with ethnic folk themes from Central Asia. He and his music faded into obscurity, and he is mainly remembered for one piece, Zavod (The Iron Foundry).

    Mosolov’s mother was an opera singer, and she began teaching him the piano at age three. They moved to Moscow. After his father’s death in 1905, his mother married Mikhail Leblan, a modernist painter. Through Leblan, he became acquainted with international art and its trends. He also learned French and German, and the family frequently visited Paris, Berlin, London, and other major European cities.
    Mosolov voluntarily joined the Red Army during the communist revolution. He served in the Red Cavalry in Poland and Ukraine. He was discharged in 1921 for medical reasons. He then went to the Moscow Conservatory, where he learned composition from Nikolai Myaskovsky and Reinhold Gliere. He graduated in 1925.
    Mosolov’s music premiered at a concert held by the Association for Contemporary Music in Moscow in 1924. This association was founded in 1923 by a group of avant-garde composers led by Nikolai Roslavets, and included other notable composers such as Myaskovsky and Shostakovich. Mosolov’s premiere was poorly received, and he was criticized for his indifference toward popular taste.
    Mosolov then produced a ballet, Stal (Steel) which premiered in 1927 and was more popular. In particular, the first movement, Zavod (The Iron Foundry) was very popular in Russia and abroad, and remains somewhat known to this day, still being used periodically as background music for films. Also in 1927, Mosolov’s String Quartet No. 1 was performed in Frankfurt, and it resulted in a contract with Universal Edition. In 1928, Mosolov premiered his first piano concerto in St. Petersburg, performing the piano part himself.
    In the late 1920s and 1930s, the Soviet authorities turned against avant-garde music. This had an effect on many composers, including Mosolov, as they began to write more conservative music. In accordance with Soviet policies, Mosolov started focusing on music with ethnic folk themes from the various Soviet republics. The first of these was the piano suite Turkmenistan Nights from 1928. Mosolov studied folk songs from Turkmenistan, Kygryzstan, Stavropol, and other Soviet regions, and incorporated them in his second piano concerto, which was completed in 1932.
    Mosolov’s music had stopped being performed in public in the USSR, and he was denounced as an “enemy of the people” by the Association of Proletarian Musicians. This association fiercely criticized the Association for Contemporary Music until they were both dissolved in 1932. In 1932, Mosolov wrote to Stalin and asked for the chance to have his music heard, or for permission to work abroad.
    In spite of his transition to a less avant-garde style, Mosolov remained disliked by the Soviet authorities. He was banned from the Composer’s Union in 1936 for drunkenly brawling in a restaurant. He was arrested in 1937 and sent to a forced labor camp with an eight-year sentence. The intervention of his former teachers Myaskovsky and Gliere resulted in his sentence ending after nine months, however he remained banned from entering Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kiev for five years.
    Mosolov continued to write music until his death in 1973. His later music reflects his censorship by the Soviet authorities, with a more conventional style and titles such as Glory to the Red Army, Glory to Moscow, Welcome the Harvest, etc.
    Much of his early music was lost when a suitcase containing his manuscripts was stolen.
    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rq1-_UPwYSM&w=560&h=315%5D
    Musical Style and Legacy
    Mosolov’s works were largely forgotten following the Soviet crack-down on avant-garde music. He is mainly remembered for Zavod (The Iron Foundry).
    His futurist music has been described by Dave Lewis as “mechanistic, highly dramatic, anti-sentimental and demonstrate[ing] no concern for popular appeal. Mosolov emphasizes motor rhythms and ostinati, and his futurist pieces are written at an extremely high level of dissonance.”[1]
    [1] https://www.allmusic.com/artist/alexander-mosolov-mn0001623806/biography

    This article was written by me for Lunyr

  • Earthling 3:08 pm on 20th May 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Anton Arensky, Rachmaninoff's teacher, Russian composer, Scriabin's teacher, Teacher of Rachmaninoff, Teacher of Scriabin   

    Anton Arensky 

    Anton Arensky (Born on July 12, 1861 in Novgorod, Russia – Died on February 25, 1906 in Terioki, Russia) was a Russian composer and teacher, known especially for teaching some of Russia’s most renowned composers. Among his notable students were Alexander Scriabin, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Reinhold Glière, Georgy Konyus, and A.N. Koreschenko.
    Arensky was born to a pair of musicians. His father was a doctor and amateur cellist, and his mother was a pianist. His mother started giving him piano lessons at age seven. His compositional efforts began at age nine. He took private lessons in piano and composition with Zikke in St. Petersburg. In 1879, he entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory. He learned counterpoint and fugue from Johannsen, and composition and orchestration from Rimsky-Korsakov. He was a successful student and graduated after three years.
    Upon graduating from the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1882, Arensky became a professor of harmony and counterpoint at the Moscow Conservatory. He met Tchaikovsky and was musically influenced by him. In 1888, he became the director of the Russian Choral Society. He also became a member of the supervisory board at the Synodal School of Church Singing.
    Arensky wrote a number of music theory works, such as A Guide to the Practical Study of Harmony, 1000 Problems, and Guide to the Study of Forms of Instrumental and Vocal Music.
    Arensky taught the future famous composer-pianists Alexander Scriabin and Sergei Rachmaninoff at the same time. He was not always pleased with Scriabin’s work. Although Scriabin graduated, Arensky refused to sign his diploma because of his refusal to write pieces in certain musical forms.
    His opera Dream on the Volga had a successful premiere at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow 1891. Arensky was the conductor.
    In 1895, Arensky was asked to replace Mily Balakirev as the director of the imperial chapel in St. Petersburg. He took on this job and lived in St. Petersburg for the rest of his life. In 1901, he left his position as the director of the imperial chapel and dedicated himself to conducting, performing, and composing.
    Arensky died of tuberculosis in 1906. This has been linked by some to drinking and gambling. [1] He is buried in the Alexander Nevsky Lavra cemetery in St. Petersburg.
    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2BLiaJ4NsE&w=560&h=315%5D
    Musical Legacy and Style
    Arensky is remembered more as a teacher than a composer. He has been praised for his mastery of compositional techniques. [2]
    Rimsky-Korsakov said, “In his youth Arensky did not escape some influence from me; later the influence came from Tchaikovsky. He will quickly be forgotten.” [1] Arensky also took inspiration from Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Borodin. [2]
    Arensky’s works include over 100 piano pieces, a number of chamber pieces, three operas, two symphonies. He also wrote five suites for two pianos and six pieces for four hands. His vocal works include two ballads, solo works, choir and orchestra works, choir pieces, quartets, duets, and pieces for piano and voice. One of his best-known works is the Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky.
    [1] https://www.8notes.com/biographies/arensky.asp
    [2] http://persona.rin.ru/eng/view/f/0/22458/arensky-anton-stepanovich
  • Earthling 10:06 am on 17th May 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Russian composer, Sergei Rachmaninoff   

    Sergei Rachmaninoff 

    Sergei Rachmaninoff

    Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff (Born April 1, 1873, in Oneg, Novgorod, Russia — died March 28, 1943, in Beverly Hills, California, U.S.) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor who is widely regarded as one of the greatest late Romantic composers. He wrote many piano pieces, as well as several concertos and symphonies. He was initially known as a composer, but after the Communist Revolution he moved to the US and Europe and became more occupied with performing and conducting.


    Rachmaninoff came from a musical and military family. His mother was a general’s daughter, and his father was a retired army officer. His father squandered away the family’s wealth, and consequently the family moved to St. Petersburg. His father later abandoned his family.
    Rachmaninoff’s musical education began with piano lessons from his mother at age 4, followed by lessons from Anna Ornatskaya. Rachmaninoff then studied under Vladimir Delyansky at the conservatory there.
    Rachmaninoff’s cousin Alexander Siloti was a successful pianist and conductor, and at his initiative the precocious Rachmaninoff was sent to study under the renowned music teacher Nikolai Zverev in Moscow. Rachmaninoff studied alongside another budding pianist-composer, Alexander Scriabin, and they maintained a lifelong friendship. They both resided and studied with Zverev. Rachmaninoff and Scriabin continued their studies together as they both enrolled in the Moscow Conservatory, with Rachmaninoff enrolling in 1883. They learned from Sergei Taneyev and Anton Arensky. Rachmaninoff also learned from his cousin Siloti.
    Rachmaninoff graduated with a one-act opera, Aleko, in 1892. A year later, Rachmaninoff won the Conservatory’s gold medal for this opera. Another early success of his was the Prelude in C Sharp minor. This piece would bother him later as people incessantly requested him to perform it.
    Rachmaninoff became severely depressed following the poor reception of his first symphony in 1897. The premiere of this symphony was conducted by Glazunov, who has been accused of doing a poor job conducting and of not liking the piece.
    Rachmaninoff also had a troublesome love affair at this time. For three years he was severely depressed and wrote almost nothing. He saw a psychiatrist, Nikolai Dahl, who helped him recover and earned the dedication of his second piano concerto. This concerto was successful, and marked Rachmaninoff’s return. Around this time, in 1902, Rachmaninoff married his cousin Natalya Satina.
    In 1909, Rachmaninoff toured the US for the first time. He achieved great fame in the US with his third piano concerto, and began touring the US regularly.
    When his friend Scriabin suddenly died in 1915, Rachmaninoff did a series of all-Scriabin tours in Russia. This was the first time he gave public performances of music other than his own. It also helped to trigger his pianistic career, since he had previously been known only as a composer. [1]
    Following the Communist Revolution of 1917, Rachmaninoff moved to America with his family. He also lived in Switzerland much of the time and toured Europe regularly. He became deeply homesick, and this has been suggested as a cause for his decreased compositional output following his expatriation. Instead, he engaged more in piano performances and conducting. He was offered leadership of the Boston Symphony Orchestra twice, and refused both times.
    Rachmaninoff died in California in 1944, a few weeks after receiving American citizenship. He was buried in the Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.

    Musical Style and Legacy

    Rachmaninoff is considered a traditional Romantic-style composer. His pieces are known for their somberness, and he admitted that he had difficulty writing music that sounded “happy”. He wrote a total of 145 compositions, mostly for the piano, and including several concertos and symphonies. He is remembered alongside Tchaikovsky as one of the greatest Russian composers.
    As a pianist, he has been described as “famous for his precision, rhythmic drive, legato and clarity of texture and for the broad design of his performances.” [2]


    (Article written by me for Lunyr: https://lunyr.com/article/Sergei%20Rachmaninoff)

  • Earthling 9:04 pm on 15th May 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Nikolai Medtner, Russian composer   

    Nikolai Medtner 

    Nikolai Karlovich Medtner (Born on January 5, 1880 in Moscow, Russia Died November 13, 1951 in London, England) was a Russian composer and pianist of German descent. He wrote mainly piano works in a traditional Romantic style.


    Medtner’s parents were German immigrants who had lived in Russia for several generations. He came from a musical family, and received piano lessons from his mother. His mother’s brother, Fedor Gedike, was a professional pianist and composer. He enrolled in the Moscow Conservatory in 1892 and graduated with a gold medal in 1900. He studied under Sergei Taneyev, Vasily Safonov, Basily Sapelnikov, Anton Arensky, and Paul Pabst. He was trained principally as a pianist, and learned how to compose independently and through some private lessons from Taneyev. Taneyev suggested pursuing a career in composition.

    Following his graduation from the Conservatory, Medtner embarked upon his career as a pianist-composer. He joined the Conservatory as a piano professor in 1909, then resigned after a year. In 1910, he met Sergei Rachmaninoff and they became close friends. He moved to Germany, then returned to Russia when World War 1 broke out. He became a piano professor at the Conservatory again from 1915-1919.

    During this period, Medtner lived with his parents. He was in love with his brother Emil’s wife Anna Bratenshi, a successful violinist. Emil was interned in Germany during World War 1. Emil divorced Anna, and she married Nikolai with Emil’s blessing in 1918.

    In 1921, Medtner and Anna were given permission by the Soviet authorities to tour abroad. They went to Germany, and never returned to Russia except once for a tour in 1927. They toured the US in 1925, then finally settled in Paris.

    Medtner’s music was not very popular in Paris, and he perceived this to be because of its traditional style. He published a book in 1935, with Sergei Rachmaninoff’s help, titled The Muse and the Fashion, in which he criticized modernist music as being based on fashion more than real artistry. He then moved to England, where his music was somewhat better received but still unpopular.

    In 1944, Medtner stopped giving concerts due to his poor health. He was able to make some recordings with the help of the Medtner Society, established with the support of the Maharaja of Mysore. The Maharaja aimed to record all of Medtner’s works. Medtner recorded much of his music, including his concertos, sonatas, chamber music, and other works.

    Medtner died of heart disease in London 1951. He is buried in Hendon with his brother Emil. His widow Anna returned to Russia with all his works and they were published in Russia in the 1960s.

    Musical Style and Legacy

    Medtner was not very popular in his time and his music was largely ignored, although it was highly esteemed by some of his peers. According to Paul Stewart, Sergei Rachmaninoff considered Medtner to be the greatest composer of their time. Rachmaninoff’s fourth piano concerto was dedicated to Medtner. [1]

    Medtner wrote in a traditional Romantic style that has been compared to Beethoven and Brahms. He used sophisticated harmonic and contrapuntal techniques in a style that was no longer in vogue in the 20th century.

    Medtner’s works include three piano concertos, fourteen piano sonatas, and many smaller pieces called Forgotten Melodies, Improvisations, and Fairy Tales. The Fairy Tales (skazki) are based on various fairy tales, while other pieces of his are based on poetry by Pushkin and Goethe.

    He wrote mainly for the piano, composing:

    • 14 piano sonatas
    • 3 piano concertos
    • 108 songs
    • 3 violin sonatas
    • 1 piano quintet
    • and more than 90 pieces for solo piano

    Although he performed and recorded, and was considered a prominent composer while he was resident in the UK, his wider renown in the West was limited.


    [1] http://www.scena.org/lsm/sm13-6/medtner-en.html






    Article written by me for Lunyr (https://lunyr.com/article/Nikolai%20Medtner)

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