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Russian Folk Musician Vasily Vasilievich Andreyev

Born in the town of Bezhetsk in Russia's Tver Oblast in 1861, Vasily Vasilievich Andreyev is credited with the modern development and promotion of several traditional Russian musical instruments, most notably the balalaika, and is widely considered to be one of the founding influences of the Eastern European folk instrument movement.

Raised by his mother and stepfather in St Petersburg, he revealed his talent for music at an early age and at ten years old he could play the balalaika and number of other folk music instruments. Andreyev started his professional music career by playing the violin in various establishments visited by European tourists, where he was often asked to perform traditional Russian music. He started to build a repertoire of Russian songs, many of which he performed on a balalaika he had made as a replica of the instrument he saw a peasant playing. His performances on this interesting triangular-shaped stringed instrument proved to be very popular, and soon he had other musicians join him, each playing on a different type of balalaika.

By 1881, this ensemble had grown into an orchestra named the Great Russian Orchestra, consisting of a variety of stringed instruments, including different types of balalaikas, domras (a type of lute) and gusli (derived from the ancient lyre), as well as zhaleikas (a single-reed hornpipe) and percussion instruments such as bubens and makras. Some of the instruments had been customized to suit the needs of an orchestra, making them unique. The Great Russian Orchestra became famous within a few years, inspiring others to learn to play traditional musical instruments, as well as to compose music specifically for them, once again, most notably for the balalaika.

This talented Russian musician's achievements included the development of a standardized balalaika; reviving the popularity of the three-stringed domra as well as the traditional gusli; composing his own music; and arranging traditional Russia folk songs for orchestral performance. After The Great Russian Orchestra toured Great Britain in the first decade of the 20th century, the Russian folk music performed by the orchestra gained international popularity, and although some members of the so-called intelligentsia of the time criticized the orchestra for not being truly traditional Russian, they did much to revive and promote the folk music of Russia.

 



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