Theme and Variations

Thoughts and experiences of exploring classical, jazz, and other art music.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev

I'm going backwards in the order a bit, as I just discovered a CD by Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev. He is best known as a member of the Russian "Mighty Handful," or, sometimes referred to as "The Mighty Five." This group, mostly self taught, was determined to promote what they believed was true Russian music. They believed that the Russian music world was too heavily influenced by German musical ideas, thus they sought to define and encourage the development of Russian musical arts.

The free music site Classical Cat has a list of a few of his works available online.

The works I have are two piano concerti, plus a Grand Fantaisie on Russian Folksongs. The first concerto has only one movement lasting a little over fourteen minutes long. The second concerto in E flat major was not completed by composer, though the sketches for it were composed so that another Russian composer, Sergey Lyapunov, could complete the last movement with Balakirev's blessing.

Balakirev's primary instrument was the piano, and apparently he was a good one. That, to me, is reflected in these concerti, which seem technical but still enjoyable to the ear. I tend to like Russian music in the Romantic style, and Balakirev's music fits the bill. Though his biographies indicate that he was an unpleasant fellow at times, I think he did accomplish what he set out to do, and that is define and promote a Russian style of music. I think his works do not get the recognition they deserve, nor the playing of which they are worthy. I'm glad that Naxos is dedicated to bringing out little known gems of classical music.

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