The Magnificence of Russian Classical Music

The first major Russian composer of classical music was Mikhail Glinka. His music became known for including elements from folk music and religious music. Other classical composers who were influenced by Russian folk lore were the famed Mighty Handful made up of Cesar Cui, Rimsky-Korsakov, Balakirev, Mussorgsky and Borodin. Around the same era in 1859 the Russian Music Society was established, headed by Nikolay and Anton Rubinstein. Whilst the Mighty Handful were more focused on Russian national identity in their compositions, the Russian Music Society were more musically conservative. Count Uvarov began a nationalist revival in the 1800s. He created an orchestra which used traditional Russian instruments.

Through the years people have tried to define what makes Russian classical music Russian. This has proved difficult to pinpoint due to the variety of compositions. However, it is possible to identify them as Russian. In the famed “Peter and the Wolf” you can hear the sound of Russian folk-songs, as heard in the falling fourths. On the other side of the spectrum is “Swan Lake” and the “Pathétique Symphony”. Russian classical music composers of the 1800s believed that the way to make music distinctively Russian was for the music to tell a story. This resulted in the creation of operas, tone-poems, ballets, fairy-stories and melodramatic fantasies. When Borodin and Tchaikovsky wrote quartets this created quite a sensation, introducing something new and spontaneous in Russian classical music.

A new era was ushered in with conservatory-trained composers and professional performers. Composers of this time included Chaliapin, Rachmaninov and Rostropovich. During this time cello sonatas and piano pieces became popular. Music was written with the purpose of touring, performances at concert-halls and to be published. Russian chamber music certainly established itself in its own right.

When it comes to Russian classical music composers, Tchaikovsky is probably the best-known worldwide. However, since the establishment of classical music in russia a number of composers have made a name for themselves. Some of them are: Anton Arnesky, Mily Balakirev, Sergie Berinsky, Alexander Borodin, Peter Bulakhov, Mikhail Cehrnov, Edison Denisov, Nikolai Fomin, Reinhold Gliere, Lev Gurilev, Vassily Kalinnnikov, Nikolai Miaskovsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Anton Rubinstein, Dmitry Shostakovich, Alexander Tcherepnin, Moisei Vainberg and Nickolai Zaremba.


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