2nd January – Mily Balakirev
Balakirev (2 January 1837 – 29 May 1910) is our chosen composer for 2nd January, to commemorate his birthday.
Lifespan: 73 years
Religion:/Philosophy: Liberal, atheist, then later Russian Orthodox and anti-Semitic.
Education: University of Kazan (Mathematics)
Fame Ranking: 3
Balakirev was influential in 18th century Russia as the founder of a group of composers known as “The Five”. The other four are Borodin, Cui, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. This group concentrated on combining elements of traditional Russian folk music with the more serious, classical artform, producing a style which came to be known as “Nationalism”.
Balakirev did not study music formally at a higher education institution, although he did have several instructors in both piano and composition. He remained strongly against systematic music instruction and also valued his own opinions above those of the others in his group, which unsurprisingly led to its eventual demise. In 1871 Balakirev suffered a nervous breakdown, and although he did reemerge from his depression, he never regained the influence of his younger years.
Here is Balakirev’s “Overture on Three Russian Themes”, which shows how he blends folk melodies into a sophisticated, symphonic work.
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Listen to some more Balakirev tracks here – click the box!