Russians on Russian Music, 1880-1917: An Anthology

By Stuart Campbell | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE

Igor Glebov: Pathways into the future. Melos, book 2 (Petrograd, 1918), pp. 50–96

The author of this article, whose real name was Boris Vladimirovich Asaf'yev (1884–1949), studied at the University and the Conservatoire in St Petersburg. He later became the most influential figure in Soviet musicology as historian and theorist.

Since Russian music officially joined the musical currents of Western Europe, it has developed at a slant derived from the constant pressure of (mainly) German music. It has been fed and watered by it and, what is more, to such a strong degree that the views, tastes and impulses towards creativity and, ultimately, the actual methods and structures taking root in Russian musical consciousness ones essentially alien to it have been accepted by us as something fit and proper beyond dispute or challenge, the one and only correct and immutable ones. Something introduced through education turned, by the force of its historical influence, into dogma, into a would-be logical scheme of compositional technique, that is, inevitably resulting from a priori laws and from the nature of musical thought. The customary began to be regarded as organic, and, through preconceived formulas, began to winnow out everything that was alive, irrepressible, and unwilling to be subordinated to rational theories. Wagner himself was accepted with caution, after a delay, with restrictions, and it took propaganda from figures on the periphery of the musical world for present-day German and French composers to break through. Everything that helped Glinka to stand on his own feet and create compositions of astounding skill entered the catechism of belief of the Russian composers who were his heirs, with the addition of the achievements (harmonic, colouristic and formal) of Liszt, Schumann, Chopin and Berlioz. Italian and French influences found reflection most in the work of Tchaikovsky, but in a strongly reshaped form, and made themselves felt hardly at all on other Russian composers. Even Berlioz exerted an influence exclusively through his instrumentation, while the work of the

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