The Five may have been looked upon as lesser musicians by members of the musical establishment in Russia. For instance, Mily Balakirev did refuse appointments because he had little formal training. I spent the most important years of my life in academic establishments and have seen colleagues finding fault with other colleagues. So, the Russian Five may been ridiculed.
However, I would like to point out that Mikhail Glinka (1 June 1804 – 15 February 1857) respected Mily Balakirev (2 January 1837 – 29 May 1910), the leader of The Five, and that Tchaikovsky applauded Balakirev.
The Five took their lead from him Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka, who could be called the father of classical music in Russia. Moreover, Mily Balakirev befriended Glinka and they composed music together. When Glinka and Balakirev’s patron, Alexander Ulybyshev (Oulibicheff) (1794-1858) died, Balakirev lost support that was vital to him.
In other words, The Five did not oppose classical music. Their wish was to give Russian classical music its Slavic character. As we have seen, Rimsky-Korsakov sent Tchaikovsky ten fugues he had composed, which Tchaikovsky (7 May 1840 – 6 November 1893) examined and found “impeccable.” (See RELATED ARTICLE.)
As for Tchaikovsky himself, let us read:
“Tchaikovsky’s training set him on a path to reconcile what he had learned with the native musical practices to which he had been exposed from childhood. From this reconciliation he forged a personal but unmistakably Russian style—a task that did not prove easy.”
(See Tchaikovsky, Wiki2.org.)
A National Effort
I should also note that in 1867, after hearing a concert given by Slavic composers, critic Vladimir Stasov wrote an article entitled Mr. Balakirev’s Slavic Concert. Composers included Mikhail Glinka, Alexander Dargomyzhsky, Mily Balakirev, and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The concert was performed for visiting Slav delegations at the “All-Russian Etnographical Exhibition” in Moscow.
God grant that our Slav guests may never forget today’s concert; God grant that they may forever preserve the memory of how much poetry, feeling, talent, and intelligence are possessed by the small but already mighty handful of Russian musicians.
— Vladimir Stasov, Sankt-Peterburgskie Vedomosti, 1867
Vladimir Stasov’s article was consecration for The Five and Slavic composer Alexander Dargomyzhsky. Their work now belonged to an all-Russian effort to express Russia’s distinct and distinguishable Slavic roots.
Similarly, the great Glinka, associated with Romanticism, recognized The Five. He and Balakirev composed The Lark.
It could be said that The Five were a baudelaireian frisson nouveau: a new shudder. But were it not for The Five and Tchaikovsky, would classical music have inherited its internationally-acclaimed Russian répertoire?
Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov (29 November 2018)
Love to everyone 💕
Glinka – Nocturne In E-flat major – Valeri Kamyshov, piano
Mikhail Pletnev plays Glinka-Balakirev The Lark – live 1982
© Micheline Walker
17 December 2018
I’ve tried to work, but unsuccessfully. I therefore apologize.
My brother, Jean-Pierre, was operated on. They removed his bladder and parts of the body located near the bladder. He must now undergo chemotherapy because no one knows if the cancer has been fully removed. The cancer has metastasized.
In the meantime, he has to learn a new way of life. He has a loving wife who will be helping him.
He also has three devoted children, two of whom live nearby. They are very fine human beings.
Persons who have children often love life more those who have not had children. My brother’s bungalow is like grand central station. The children are always dropping in and discuss what problem they may be experiencing with their father.
My brother is non judgemental and he is forgiving. He is also very generous.
No, he is not an intellectual. He is in the clean energy business and has many customers in Africa. He has therefore travelled to Africa several times where he has many friends. But he started out in the Air Force. He was interested in the military.
At that time, he was in a car accident. There were five persons in the car. Four died, but he thought he was fine. He did not realize that a piece of glass had penetrated his forehead. When symptoms appeared, the piece of glass was removed at the Montreal Neurological Institute. He recovered fully, but the accident may have ended his career in the military.
What has united my brother and me more than anything else is the death of several siblings. There is a congenital blood disease in my family. So we lost fourteen brothers and sisters. An Armenian doctor, whose family settled in Sherbrooke, found a cure. My brother and I could not understand why our family was not like other families.
I don’t think I will see my brother until he returns home. We will speak on the phone. He has asked to be left alone. He has to learn how to function without a bladder and needs rest before his second round of chemotherapy. A few months ago, my brother saw a specialist who did not diagnose cancer.
I’m still working on the French Revolution. There is a problem. On the day of the Tennis Court Oath (20 June 1789), one person, Joseph Martin-Dauch, out of 577, would not take the collective vote. Why?
© Micheline Walker
30 August 2018
It is so difficult to accept the death of Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. He was a powerful male singer with a “silver mane” (this description is not mine). Hvorostosky had brown hair, but it turned white in his early thirties. He passed away on 22 November 2017, at the age of 55.
Hvorostovsky was born in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, on 16 October 1962, to what I would describe as an upper middle-class family. He came to the attention of music lovers everywhere when he won the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition, in 1989.
In the summer of 2015, Hvorostovsky announced that he had a brain tumour. After a short leave, he resumed his career, at a slower pace and briefly. An inoperable malignant brain tumour is merciless.
In the above photograph, he is singing an aria from Tchaikovsky‘s Queen of Spades, based on a short story, Pikovaha Dama (La Dame de pique) written during the fall of 1833 by Alexander Pushkin (26 May 1779 – 29 January 1837). Pushkin is also the author of the drama Boris Godunov (1833) and a novel in verse entitled Eugene Onegin. Eugene Onegin was serialized between 1848-1852 and it is the basis for Tchaikovsky‘s 1879 opera Eugene Onegin. The opera’s librettist was the composer’s brother Modest Tchaikovsky.
Verdi’s La Traviata
Baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky was in good health when he sang Di Provenza, il mar, il suol, an aria from Giuseppi Verdi‘s La Traviata (1852), an opera derived from a novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils‘ (27 July 1824 – 27 November 1895) La Dame aux camélias (The Lady with/of the Camellias) (1848), or Camille, to an English-speaking audience. Dmitri Hvrostovsky is Giorgio Germont, trying to persuade his son, Alfredo, who loves Violetta, to return to Provence, the family home (Scene 2 of La Traviata).
The protagonist of Giuseppi Verdi‘s La Traviata (the fallen woman) is Violetta Valéry. Alexandre Dumas named his protagonist Marguerite Gautier. She had been Marie Duplessis (1824 – 1847) who wore a red camellia when she was menstruating, a message to her lovers. She was born Alphonsine Rose Plessis, in Normandy, to an abusive father who sold her when she was 15.
At the age of 16, the beautiful Marie Duplessis conquered Paris. She bore a child to Charles Morny, duc de Morny, but the baby died a month after birth. The duc de Morny, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand‘s illegitimate grandson and a half-brother to Napoleon III, looked after Marie Duplessis, providing her with an apartment and transforming her into a refined courtesan and salonnière, the most famous in her days. She was Alexandre Dumas, fils’ lover and a lover to various aristocrats as well as composer Franz Liszt. Alexandre Dumas, fils, born in 1824, could not afford to marry her.
The lovely Marie Duplessis died of tuberculosis on 3 February 1847, at the age of 23. At her bedside were her husband, a brief marriage, the comte de Perregaux, and her former lover, the Baltic-German count Gustav Ernst von Stackelberg.
- The Dumas Dynasty: Thomas-Alexandre Dumas (26 January 2014) the three Dumas
- Dumas, père & Marguerite de Valois fictionalized (10 March 2012)
Sources and Ressources
Love to everyone ♥
Hvorostosky sings Verdi’s Di Provenza, il mar, il suol
© Micheline Walker
10 July 2018
Toutes les cloches sonneront
Vous y dansiez petite fille
Y danserez-vous mère-grand
C’est la maclotte qui sautille
Toutes les cloches sonneront
Quand donc reviendrez-vous Marie
This post is a continuation of a discussion of “Marie,” a poem by Guillaume Apollinaire set to music by Léo Ferré. “Marie” is a love poem. Apollinaire was romantically involved with Marie Laurencin, a well-known French artist who was a frequent guest in many salons. In the first stanza, Apollinaire writes: “Toutes les cloches sonneront,” if Marie as a grandmother can dance as she did as a young girl.
Bells are a powerful symbol. For instance, the line “[t]outes les cloches sonneront” brings to mind “Les trois cloches,” (The Three Bells), a Swiss song written in French by Jean Villard Gilles that won Édith Piaf and les Compagnons de la chanson a great deal of praise. It is the subject-matter of my nearly complete next post. In “Les trois cloches,” bells ring when Jean-François Nicot is baptized. They ring on his wedding day. And they ring at his funeral. These are the key events of his life, our life, and bells ring.
Bells, however, church bells, are particularly important in Russia and are one of the distinguishing elements of Russian music.
Bells in Russian Music
- liturgical use
- other uses (secular)
- an institution
- the carillon
It is not uncommon for Russian composers to imitate the sound of bells in their music or include bells among musical instruments. In Russia, bells, church bells, were/are used for both liturgical and secular purposes This is also the case in the Western Church, but to a much lesser extent.
In other words, bells in Russia are little short of an institution.
The language of bells
Not all bells produce an identical sound. For instance they differ in size. A large bell is a louder bell. When mixed and depending on the rhythmic pattern, bells may therefore be used to convey a rather wide spectrum of messages, liturgical and secular. Some bells can be heard from afar and transmit a message that other bells can retransmit: D’écho en écho (Les trois cloches).
There is an instrument made of bells: the carillon. It may use a large number of bells. Ottawa’s Peace Tower has a carillon of 52 bells (see carillon, Wikipedia), played by Dr Andrea McGrady, the Dominion carillonneur. The carillon is an instrument that reminds me of a church organ. There are carillons all over the world and in places such as university campuses and parliaments. In Germany, a carillon is called a Glockenspiel. Elsewhere a Glockenspiel resembles a zylophone.
Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris
In Victor Hugo‘s Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame), published in 1831, the cathedral’s bells are central to the novel. Quasimodo, the hunchback, is brought up to be the bell-ringer and swings from a rope to save Esméralda from the gallows.
The Canonical Hours
Bells are also linked to the eight Canonical Hours or Liturgy of the Hours and the more secular, but devotional, Book of Hours. In “Frère Jacques,” a 17th-century song, the eponymous Frère Jacques rings the canonical hour called matins:
Frère Jacques, frère Jacques,
Dormez-vous ? Dormez-vous ?
Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines!
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.
But let us return to Russia.
Although church bells are used in many cultures, for both liturgical and secular purposes, in Russia, they play a more central role than they do in the Western Church. However, the phenomenon I wish to emphasize is, first, their being imitated in music and, second, their being used as a musical instrument.
Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky composed music which, unlike the compositions of the Group of Five, did not attempt to be a national idiom, which does not mean that their music is not Russian. It features bells.
A discussion of bells could lead to a very long post. For the time being, let us note that Russian composers use musical instruments to reproduce the sound of bells ringing and that they may used bells as instruments. As we have seen above, there is an instrument made of bells: the carillon. However, we will listen to two works for the piano composed by Sergei Rachmaninov and imitating the sound of bells. We will also listen to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture: bells and cannons.
The very end of Sergei Rachmaninov‘s Prelude in C-sharp minor 🎶 (Op. 3/2) the sound of bells. One may not hear the bells immediately, but we are definitely listening to a reproduction of the sound of bells in a piece for the piano. I am including a performance by Russian-born pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy.
Prelude in C-sharp minor (Op. 3/2)
“[t]he opening movement begins with a series of bell-like tollings on the piano that build tension, eventually climaxing in the introduction of the main theme.”
(See Piano Concerto Op 18/2, Wikipedia.)
Tchaikovsky: chimes and cannons
- Marie: the Words to a Love Song (20 June 2015)
- The Canonical Hours or the Divine Office (19 Nov 2011)
(links are being refreshed)
Sources and Resources
With kindest regards to all of you. ♥
Edward V. Williams, The Bells of Russia: History and Technology (Princeton University Press, 2014 )
We have already seen two paintings by Isaac Levitan’s (August 30, 1860 – August 4 1900). Isaac Levitan, a Jew, was a Lithuanian-Russian artist and he created the “mood landscape,” lyrical landscape paintings. Levitan was associated with the Peredvizhniki (wanderers), a group of artists who sought more freedom than was allowed by academic art. Levitan was a friend of Nikolai Chekhov, a painter, and also befriended Nikolai’s brother, Anton Chekhov.
Nikolai had died of tuberculosis in 1889 and, as mentioned in earlier posts, Levitan spent the last year of his life at Anton Chekhov’s house, in Crimea. Levitan died of a terminal illness at the age of forty. Anton, a medical doctor, died of tubercolusis in 1894.
Despite ill-health, Levitan was extremely productive. According to Wikipedia, “Isaac Levitan‘s hugely influential art heritage consists of more than a thousand paintings, among them watercolors, pastels, graphics, and illustrations.”
Sources and Resources“Isaak Ilyich Levitan.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 29 Aug. 2012. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/337990/Isaak-Ilyich-Levitan>
The above painting reminds me of Canada where birch trees are plentiful. You probably remember from our voyageurs blogs that canoes were made of birch. If one was destroyed, voyageurs and Amerindians could build a new one quickly by helping themselves to what birch trees provided. Nails were not used in building canoes.(please click on the pictures to enlarge them) Tchaikovsky (7 May 1840 – 6 November 1893) Andante Cantabile for orchestra and cello Yo Yo Ma (b. 1956) © Micheline Walker 29 August 2012 WordPress