Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Mily Balakirev

Music History Monday: Mily Balakirev

A happy 180th birthday to Mily Balakirev, the man who became – virtually – the Tsar of nineteenth century Russian music. More than anyone else, it was Mily Balakirev who postulated and promulgated precisely what Russian nationalist music should be. Balakirev was born in the city of Nizhny Novgorod – which was known as “Gorky” from 1932 to 1990 – about 240 miles east of Moscow. He was a child prodigy as both a pianist and conductor and began composing at the age of 15. Among his early compositions was a virtuosic piano fantasy based on themes from Mikhail Glinka’s groundbreaking opera, A Life for the Tsar. Thanks to his two operas: A Life for the Tsar (known during the Soviet era as “Ivan Susanin”) of 1836 and Ruslan and Lyudmila, of 1842, Glinka was embraced (and continues to be embraced) as the “Messiah of Russian music”, that single composer credited with having lead Russian concert music out of the wilderness of Western European domination to a place of paradisiacal narodnost’, of Russian musical authenticity. In 1855, at the age of 18, Balakirev moved to St. Petersburg, where he met and played piano for his hero, Mikhail Glinka. Glinka – […]

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