History of Music in Russia from Antiquity to 1800

By Seaman, Gerald | Fontes Artis Musicae, October-December 2009 | Go to article overview
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History of Music in Russia from Antiquity to 1800

Seaman, Gerald, Fontes Artis Musicae

History of Music in Russia from Antiquity to 1800. By Nikolai Findeizen. Edited and annotated by Milos Velimirovic and Claudia R. Jensen. With the Assistance of Malcolm Hamrick Brown and Daniel C. Waugh. Volume I. From Antiquity to the Beginning of the Eighteenth Century; Volume II. The Eighteenth Century. Indiana University Press, Blooming ton and Indianapolis, 2008. [Vol. I. xxii, 467 p. ISBN: 978-0-253-34825-8. $60; Vol. II. xv, 617 p. ISBN: 978-0-253-34826-5. $60.

Nikolay Fedorovich Findeizen may justly be called "the father of Russian musicology." Born on 23 July 1868 in St. Petersburg, where he mostly remained until his death on 20 September 1928, he studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory under Nikolay Aleksandrovich Sokolov (1859-1922), a teacher of theory and composition, who subsequently became the mentor of Shostakovich. During his early years the young Findeizen could not help but be receptive to the wealth of musical activity burgeoning in the Russian capital, a strong influence on him being that of the nationalist writer, art critic and polymath Vladimir Stasov (1824-1906). Stasov was an ardent Slavophil, so it is not surprising that the young Findeizen should become a staunch supporter of the Russian Nationalist School; indeed he devoted the rest of his life to the study of Russian culture, his publications comprising several hundred books and articles, mostly written in Russian but sometimes in German as well.

Of special significance was his work as the founder and editor in 1894 of the most outstanding pre-Revolutionary music journal Russkaya Muzykal'naya Gazeta [Russian Music Gazette], which continued to appear until 1917. [For an account of this, see Fontes Artis Musicae, 49/1-2, January-June 2002, pp. 55-66]. He was also the editor of the scholarly journal Muzykal'naya Starina [Musical Antiquity]. Subtitled Sbornik statey i materialov dlya istorii muzyki v Rossii [Collection of Articles and Materials on the History of Music in Russia], the journal was published in 16 parts in St. Petersburg from 1903-11. From 1899, he was a corresponding member of the International Music Society, whose headquarters were in Berlin. In 1909, he founded, together with Aleksandr Il'ich Ziloti (1863-1945) and Stanislav Maksimovich Sonki (1853-1941), a Society of Friends of Music, in 1911 becoming its head. From 1919-25, he lectured on music archaeology and paleography at the Archaeological Institute. He was the founder of the Music History Museum of the Petersburg Philharmonic, which, in 1920, became the State Museum of Music History. In 1925, he was appointed head of a commission for the study of folk music. He also contributed to the Ezhegodniki Imperatorskikh Teatrov [Yearbooks of the Imperial Theatres] and was editor of the collection Muzykal'naya etnografiya [Music Ethnography] (1926)

All these publications, however, were by way of preparation for his chef d'oeuvre: Ocherki po istorii muzyki v Rossii s drevneyshikh vremyon do kontsa XVIII veka [Essays on the History of Music in Russia from the Most Ancient Times up to the End of the Eighteenth Century], published in seven parts in 1928-29. Although this monumental work was by no means the first history of music to be written in Russia, no indigenous scholar prior to Findeizen had delved so deeply into the rich heritage of Russian music prior to 1800, most of which was virtually unknown or ignored.

As Milos Velimirovic and Claudia Jensen point out in their informative Editors' Introduction, the writing of the Ocherki occupied Findeizen some forty years, of particular interest being a draft of a letter to Michel-Dimitri Calvocoressi (1877-1944) preserved in the Moscow Glinka Museum and consulted by Professor Velimirovic in 1991. As Findeizen informs us:

"In 1918 I completed a work conceived thirty years ago, going through a period of collecting materials and sources. That is the History of Music in Russia in the 17th and 18th Centuries.

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