The Smaller Five
Leonid A. Polovinkin:
The Partial Avant-Gardist
Leonid Alekseevich Polovinkin was born in Kurgan on August 1, 1894 and died in Moscow on February 8, 1949. His family moved from Kurgan, a small Siberian town, where his father was a railway engineer, to Moscow when Polovinkin was two years old. As a boy, he began studies on the piano and the violin. In 1918 he graduated from the Faculty of Law in Moscow University and in 1924 from the Moscow Conservatoire (his name was engraved on the golden roll of honor), which he had entered in 1914. Here he worked with S. N. Vasilenko and N. Myaskovsky in composition, L. E. Konyus (and later Kipp) in piano studies, G. L. Katuar in analysis and form, V. A. Zolotarev and A. Il'insky in harmony and counterpoint, R. M. Gliere in fugue, and with N. A. Mal'ko in conducting. Polovinkin had already graduated from his piano course in 1922, thus completing a double major. He stayed at the Conservatoire for postgraduate studies until 1926, investigating formal analysis. Subsequently, he taught orchestration at the Conservatoire from 1926 to 1932. Simultaneously, he took part, in Leningrad, in the establishment of the Monumental'niy Teatr Opery i Baleta, known as the Mamont (Mammoth), and was also music director at the Aleksandrinskiy Theater. From 1918 onward he began to concertize as a pianist. His command of a number of languages gave him a wide cultural base, which included history, literature, and philosophy, and allowed him to read the classics in their original languages. In 1923 he formed an unofficial circle of composers with Shebalin, Kryukov, and Shirinskiy. From 1924 he fulfilled the function of secretary in the Association of Contemporary Music, where his committee colleagues were Myaskovsky, Prokofiev, Shebalin, Shostakovich, Aleksandrov, and Mosolov.
The entire creative development of Polovinkin as a composer is closely linked up with the theater, for which he composed his earliest compositions in 1917. He worked as a musical director in the former Alexandrinsky Theater (Leningrad) in 1924-1925, and from 1926 was the permanent musical director of the Moscow Children's Theater, where he also conducted. This resulted in his many stage works, one of the best known