Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev (1837-1910)

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0120110214
0120110214

Donald Macleod explores Mily Balakirev's early years.

He was described by Tchaikovsky as a "saintly prig" - hugely influential, obstinate, and argumentative, Mily Balakirev saw himself as the 'Father of Russian Music', inheriting the mantle direct from his idol Glinka, whilst also being the pivotal figure at the centre of The Mighty Handful.

He was the first significant Russian musician to engage in collecting folksongs, as he was keen to develop an authentic kind of Russian music. These traditional musical forms would filter into his own works such as Tamara, creating exotic and oriental sounds that would be emulated by other composers. His overtures based on folk song would also become a blueprint for future generations. Although Balakirev would later quarrel with all members of The Mighty Handful, not least of all due to his overbearing personality, if he hadn't encouraged Mussorgsky, Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov to pursue composition, they all might have followed very different careers.

In the first episode exploring the life and music of Mily Balakirev, Donald Macleod looks at the composer's early years. He was born in Nizhy-Novgorod, but a well-off patron would soon take Balakirev under his wing, and with Ulybyshev's influence including a library stocked full of musical scores, Balakirev would eventually have the opportunity of meeting his musical hero Glinka, in St Petersburg.

Balakirev would present a number of his early works to Glinka, including his one movement Octet opus 3, and a piano work based on Glinka's opera A Life for the Tsar. The piano would always be a huge influence on Balakirev, and his Piano Concerto no.1 demonstrates many of the earlier influences from composers he probably studied or heard at Ulybyshev's house.

He was described by Tchaikovsky as a "saintly prig" - hugely influential, obstinate, and argumentative, Mily Balakirev saw himself as the 'Father of Russian Music', inheriting the mantle direct from his idol Glinka, whilst also being the pivotal figure at the centre of The Mighty Handful.

He was the first significant Russian musician to engage in collecting folksongs, as he was keen to develop an authentic kind of Russian music.

These traditional musical forms would filter into his own works such as Tamara, creating exotic and oriental sounds that would be emulated by other composers.

His overtures based on folk song would also become a blueprint for future generations.

Although Balakirev would later quarrel with all members of The Mighty Handful, not least of all due to his overbearing personality, if he hadn't encouraged Mussorgsky, Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov to pursue composition, they all might have followed very different careers.

In the first episode exploring the life and music of Mily Balakirev, Donald Macleod looks at the composer's early years.

He was born in Nizhy-Novgorod, but a well-off patron would soon take Balakirev under his wing, and with Ulybyshev's influence including a library stocked full of musical scores, Balakirev would eventually have the opportunity of meeting his musical hero Glinka, in St Petersburg.

Balakirev would present a number of his early works to Glinka, including his one movement Octet opus 3, and a piano work based on Glinka's opera A Life for the Tsar.

The piano would always be a huge influence on Balakirev, and his Piano Concerto no.1 demonstrates many of the earlier influences from composers he probably studied or heard at Ulybyshev's house.

0220110215
0220110215

Donald Macleod focuses on Balakirev's early career in St Petersburg.

0220110215

A "saintly prig" he was described as - hugely influential, obstinate, and argumentative, Mily Balakirev saw himself as the 'Father of Russian Music', inheriting the mantle direct from his idol Glinka, whilst also being the pivotal figure at the centre of The Mighty Handful.

Balakirev made a name for himself in St Petersburg not only as a composer, but also as a concert pianist with works such as his Grand Fantasy on Russian Folksongs. However, he felt 'forced to perform in public', even in the presence of the Tsar and members of the Imperial family, and wished to pursue his musical career in composition.

Before Glinka died, he had virtually anointed Balakirev as his musical heir, to uphold the Russian national style. Balakirev became interested in collecting folk music, in order to develop an authentic kind of Russian music, such as his Overture on Three Russian Themes. His overtures based on folk music would become blueprints for future generations of composers, and Balakirev had already started to collect around him an orbiting system of satellite talents including Mussorgsky - a group later to be known as The Mighty Handful.

Donald Macleod focuses on Balakirev's early career in St Petersburg.

A "saintly prig" he was described as - hugely influential, obstinate, and argumentative, Mily Balakirev saw himself as the 'Father of Russian Music', inheriting the mantle direct from his idol Glinka, whilst also being the pivotal figure at the centre of The Mighty Handful.

Balakirev made a name for himself in St Petersburg not only as a composer, but also as a concert pianist with works such as his Grand Fantasy on Russian Folksongs.

However, he felt 'forced to perform in public', even in the presence of the Tsar and members of the Imperial family, and wished to pursue his musical career in composition.

Before Glinka died, he had virtually anointed Balakirev as his musical heir, to uphold the Russian national style.

Balakirev became interested in collecting folk music, in order to develop an authentic kind of Russian music, such as his Overture on Three Russian Themes.

His overtures based on folk music would become blueprints for future generations of composers, and Balakirev had already started to collect around him an orbiting system of satellite talents including Mussorgsky - a group later to be known as The Mighty Handful.

0320110216
0320110216

Donald Macleod focuses on Balakirev's folk song collecting in Georgia.

0320110216

A "saintly prig" he was described as - hugely influential, obstinate, and argumentative, Mily Balakirev saw himself as the 'Father of Russian Music', inheriting the mantle direct from his idol Glinka, whilst also being the pivotal figure at the centre of The Mighty Handful.

Balakirev was now mixing in the top musical circles in St Petersburg, but he never forgot his former idol Glinka. He continued to transcribe a number of works by Glinka, including a romance which he renamed The Skylark for piano. Glinka's sister invited Balakirev to go to Prague, to oversee the performance of some of her late brother's works. When Balakirev was abroad he came across some Czech folksongs, and subsequently composed an Overture on Czech Themes, renamed as In Bohemia.

There was distrust of the academic approach to musical education by Balakirev, supported by his acolytes Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin, and there ensued a public mudslinging episode against Rubinstein, then director of the Conservatoire. This escalated into anti-Semitism. Balakirev was a fiery patriot, and still keen to develop an authentic Russian musical style through collecting folksongs, such as his Song of Georgia.

It was during this period of the 1860's that Balakirev would compose his most famous work, Islamey. Originally for the piano, it's one of the most difficult works in the piano repertoire.

Donald Macleod focuses on Balakirev's folk song collecting in Georgia.

A "saintly prig" he was described as - hugely influential, obstinate, and argumentative, Mily Balakirev saw himself as the 'Father of Russian Music', inheriting the mantle direct from his idol Glinka, whilst also being the pivotal figure at the centre of The Mighty Handful.

Balakirev was now mixing in the top musical circles in St Petersburg, but he never forgot his former idol Glinka.

He continued to transcribe a number of works by Glinka, including a romance which he renamed The Skylark for piano.

Glinka's sister invited Balakirev to go to Prague, to oversee the performance of some of her late brother's works.

When Balakirev was abroad he came across some Czech folksongs, and subsequently composed an Overture on Czech Themes, renamed as In Bohemia.

There was distrust of the academic approach to musical education by Balakirev, supported by his acolytes Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin, and there ensued a public mudslinging episode against Rubinstein, then director of the Conservatoire.

This escalated into anti-Semitism.

Balakirev was a fiery patriot, and still keen to develop an authentic Russian musical style through collecting folksongs, such as his Song of Georgia.

It was during this period of the 1860's that Balakirev would compose his most famous work, Islamey.

Originally for the piano, it's one of the most difficult works in the piano repertoire.

0420110217
0420110217

Donald Macleod on Balakirev's journey through depression and his discovery of religion.

0420110217

A "saintly prig" he was described as - hugely influential, obstinate, and argumentative, Mily Balakirev saw himself as the 'Father of Russian Music', inheriting the mantle direct from his idol Glinka, whilst also being the pivotal figure at the centre of The Mighty Handful.

Balakirev, now at the height of his career, was invited to conduct the Russian Music Society. His first act was to invite Berlioz to Russia to conduct some of the concerts. Balakirev assisted Berlioz with the chorus, which would influence Balakirev's knowledge of writing for choirs, in hymns such as Let all mortal flesh keep silence.

Late 1860's, the tide was turning, and Balakirev's popularity was on the wane. He'd antagonised a powerful adversary in the person of the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, and he soon found himself out of work and looking for employment on the railways. It was during this time that Balakirev turned to religion, with burning lamps flickering in front of icons in every room of his home. Balakirev would later compose a number of religious anthems, including The Prophets, inspired by Heaven.

By the late 1870's, Balakirev was emerging from depression, having not composed anything for a good ten year period. He was now starting to look at old works and revising them, including completing a number of other compositions he'd started, such as his first Symphony influenced by Russian Church chant.

Donald Macleod on Balakirev's journey through depression and his discovery of religion.

A "saintly prig" he was described as - hugely influential, obstinate, and argumentative, Mily Balakirev saw himself as the 'Father of Russian Music', inheriting the mantle direct from his idol Glinka, whilst also being the pivotal figure at the centre of The Mighty Handful.

Balakirev, now at the height of his career, was invited to conduct the Russian Music Society.

His first act was to invite Berlioz to Russia to conduct some of the concerts.

Balakirev assisted Berlioz with the chorus, which would influence Balakirev's knowledge of writing for choirs, in hymns such as Let all mortal flesh keep silence.

Late 1860's, the tide was turning, and Balakirev's popularity was on the wane.

He'd antagonised a powerful adversary in the person of the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, and he soon found himself out of work and looking for employment on the railways.

It was during this time that Balakirev turned to religion, with burning lamps flickering in front of icons in every room of his home.

Balakirev would later compose a number of religious anthems, including The Prophets, inspired by Heaven.

By the late 1870's, Balakirev was emerging from depression, having not composed anything for a good ten year period.

He was now starting to look at old works and revising them, including completing a number of other compositions he'd started, such as his first Symphony influenced by Russian Church chant.

0520110218
0520110218

Donald Macleod focuses on Balakirev's final years, including the completion of Tamara.

0520110218

A "saintly prig" he was described as - hugely influential, obstinate, and argumentative, Mily Balakirev saw himself as the 'Father of Russian Music', inheriting the mantle direct from his idol Glinka, whilst also being the pivotal figure at the centre of The Mighty Handful.

Balakirev had regained some of his previous influence over musical life in St Petersburg, now back at the helm of the Free School of Music, and also invited to be the Director of Music for the Imperial Chapel. It was during this time that he completed his symphonic masterpiece, Tamara, which he dedicated to Liszt.

His popularity was never to be what it once was, and although still very influential, there were new people on the scene such as the millionaire Mitrofan Belyaev, who Balakirev would see as his rival. Loyalty always mattered to Balakirev, whereas former protégé Rimsky-Korsakov now showed him little respect. Balakirev would always remain true to his heroes though, like Glinka and Chopin, and he composed an Impromptu based on two Chopin preludes.

In the final years of Balakirev's life, he would spend much of his time writing new piano works, and also revising and completing other compositions. One work his publisher urged him to complete was his second piano concerto. Balakirev would often play this work to friends, but it was left to his loyal follower Lyapunov, to write down and orchestrate the final movement.

05 LAST20110218

Donald Macleod focuses on Balakirev's final years, including the completion of Tamara.

A "saintly prig" he was described as - hugely influential, obstinate, and argumentative, Mily Balakirev saw himself as the 'Father of Russian Music', inheriting the mantle direct from his idol Glinka, whilst also being the pivotal figure at the centre of The Mighty Handful.

Balakirev had regained some of his previous influence over musical life in St Petersburg, now back at the helm of the Free School of Music, and also invited to be the Director of Music for the Imperial Chapel.

It was during this time that he completed his symphonic masterpiece, Tamara, which he dedicated to Liszt.

His popularity was never to be what it once was, and although still very influential, there were new people on the scene such as the millionaire Mitrofan Belyaev, who Balakirev would see as his rival.

Loyalty always mattered to Balakirev, whereas former protg Rimsky-Korsakov now showed him little respect.

Balakirev would always remain true to his heroes though, like Glinka and Chopin, and he composed an Impromptu based on two Chopin preludes.

In the final years of Balakirev's life, he would spend much of his time writing new piano works, and also revising and completing other compositions.

One work his publisher urged him to complete was his second piano concerto.

Balakirev would often play this work to friends, but it was left to his loyal follower Lyapunov, to write down and orchestrate the final movement.