Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev (1837-1910)


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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 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.