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

By Larry Sitsky | Go to book overview

Leonid L. Sabaneev: Would-be Scientist Becomes Critic

Leonid Leonidovich Sabaneev was born in Moscow on October 1, 1881 and died in Antibes on May 3, 1968. He studied both mathematics and physics at Moscow University and these fields distracted him for some time from his musical career. In 1898 he enrolled in the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Science, graduating in 1906 with a degree of Master in Pure Mathematics. His musical gifts were recognized very early, and he entered the Moscow Conservatoire, studying piano with N. S. Zverev (from 1888), N. Ladukhin (from 1889), and P. J. Schloetzer (after Zverev's death); theory and composition with Taneev (from 1890), and instrumentation with N. Rimsky-Korsakov. Works from his extreme youth included incidental music to "King Oedipus" ( 1889) and a funeral march in memory of Beethoven ( 1890).

From 1906, after graduating from Moscow University, he embarked on a dual career as composer and musicologist; it is as the latter that he eventually made his mark in the West, but his musicological approaches were always colored and tempered by his active participation as a composer in various new trends of his time. He was regarded as a flag-bearer for the Left, proclaiming freedom from academic traditions resulting in a new creativity. Beginning with the music of Scriabin, he also espoused much of the music of the younger generation of composers. His articles appeared in a great variety of publications: Golos moskvy, Russkoe slovo, Utro Rossii, Muzyka, Apollon, Muzykal'nyy sovremennik, Melos, Der blaue ritter, Musical Times, The Dominant, and others. His scientific background allowed him to view new scores from a particular vantage point, and he produced, early on, writings on theory, harmony, rhythm, and the relationship between sound and color. He founded the Moscow Institute of Musicology, was chairman of the Russian Academy of Fine Arts, and was heavily involved in a number of teaching institutions. As early as 1912, Sabaneev announced the birth of the Science of Music; he had a rather low opinion of theorists from the past, accusing them of being essentially untalented, failed musicians.

His writings (see Works list) contain some interesting ideas, though, perhaps not as scientifically presented as he thought: thus, the derivation of Scriabin's so-called mystic chord from the overtone series; the application of the term "astral body" in an effort to explain Scriabin's music from a harmonic standpoint; his notion of an ultrachromatic music, lying beyond the bounds of the equal-tempered system; his advocacy of a 53-note octave as the music of the future. This last was presented as a paper to the State Institute of Musical Science during the 1920s, together with a


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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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