Music of the Repressed Russian Avant-Garde, 1900-1929

By Larry Sitsky | Go to book overview

1

Historical Background: Anatoliy V. Lunacharsky, the Cultured Commissar

It is almost axiomatic that the history of Russian music is constituted by the conflict of ideas from within and without, the influence from abroad and the reaction to that influence. Much of the nineteenth century, especially its later years, was taken up by the battle between ideas: the forces of conservatism and Western thought, epitomized by Anton and Nicholas Rubinstein, against the formation of a new nationalistic Russian school of composition vigorously promoted by the "Mighty Five" led by Mily Balakirev . By the end of the century, a synthesis had taken place: the educational and professional reforms of the Rubinstein brothers were firmly in place, as were the reputations of composers like Modeste Moussorgsky, Aleksandr Borodin, and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

Russian composers were generally leftist in their politics. They welcomed the 1917 revolution (though not necessarily the Bolsheviks, who were largely an unknown quantity), and were outraged at the massacre that occurred during the abortive 1905 revolution. They were, as a group, patriotic, and saw the people and folk music as a rich source of their inspiration. Few, of course, were totally resistant to Western thought, and quite a number subscribed to the dictum of "art for art's sake." The "World of Art" group, for example, existed from 1899 to 1922. Thus, the seeds for dissention were sown very early, and were to have tragic consequences during the first years of the October Revolution.

On the other hand, the authorities, whether Tsarist or Soviet, well understood the power of art and artists, and exercised censorship with whatever rationalization was currently feasible. They did not hesitate to repress and exile artists, and in this respect there was little difference between the two regimes. Eventually, however, the Soviet rule far outstripped its predecessor in its viciousness. Like the Tsarists, they knew that the intelligentsia harbored freethinkers, but they were willing to go to undreamed of lengths to repress such thought. In the end, the fact that most composers may have welcomed the change of revolution made little difference.

Lenin appointed the first Commissar for Public Education on October 26, 1917. The appointee's name was Anatoliy Vasilievich Lunacharsky. Lunacharsky was an extraordinary man, in many ways the single-handed architect of this whole period of musical creativity. Born in Poltava on November 11, 1875, his cultural interests

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Music of the Repressed Russian Avant-Garde, 1900-1929
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • 1 1
  • Bibliography 7
  • Part I - The Precursors 10
  • 2 - Vladimir I. Rebikov: The Inventor of Whole-Tone Music 10
  • Bibliography 25
  • 3: Aleksei V. Stanchinskiy 27
  • Part II - The Big Three 38
  • 4 - Nikolai A. Roslavets: The Russian Schoenberg 38
  • Bibliography 58
  • 5: Aleksandr V. Mosolov 60
  • 6: Arthur V. Lourié 87
  • Part III - The Smaller Five 111
  • 7 - Leonid A. Polovinkin: The Partial Avant-Gardist 111
  • Bibliography 132
  • 8 - Vladimir V. Shcherbachev: Old Wine in New Vessels 133
  • 9: Lev K. Knipper 149
  • 10: Boris N. Liatoshinski 158
  • 11 - Vladimir M. Deshevov: The Man of the Theater 171
  • Part IV - The Reluctant Avant-Gardists 183
  • 12 - Samuil E. Feinberg: The Post-Scriabin Pianist 183
  • Bibliography 198
  • 13: Anatoliy N. Aleksandrov 199
  • 14 - Boris A. Aleksandrov: Son of the Composer of the Soviet Anthem 216
  • Part V 217
  • 15: Aleksandr A. Krein 219
  • 16 - Grigoriy A. Krein: Toward Assimilation 225
  • Bibliography 229
  • 17 - Yulian G. Krein: Precocious Cosmopolitan 235
  • 18 - The Ukrainian Bartók and Bloch 241
  • 19: Mikhail F. Gnessin 242
  • Part VI 248
  • 20 248
  • 21: Nikolai Obukhov 254
  • 22: Iosif M. Schillinger 264
  • 23: Aleksandr N. Tcherepnine 273
  • Part VII 283
  • 24 283
  • 25: Leonid L. Sabaneev 291
  • 26 - Dmitriy M. Melkikh: Rhapsodist 309
  • 27: Gavrill N. Popov 310
  • 28: Aleksei S. Zhivotov 318
  • 29: Efim Golyshchev 323
  • 30 - Georgi M. Rimsky-Korsakov: Microtonist 328
  • Appendix: Further Scores for Study and Reference 329
  • Index 343
  • About the Author 349
  • Recent Titles in Contributions to the Study of Music and Dance 351
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