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Dargomyzhsky, Alexander Sergeyevich
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Dargomïzhsky, Alexander Sergeyevich

(Born; Troitskoye, 14 Feb 1813; Died; St Petersburg, 17 Jan 1869). Russian composer. With Glinka, he established a tradition of national opera based on folksong and a concern for dramatic truth, and in his songs, ranging from expressive lyrical romances to powerful dramatic ballads, he made an important contribution to the repertory. Born into a wealthy aristocratic family that settled in St Petersburg in 1817, he received music lessons but chose government service for his career. An acquaintance with Glinka (1833-4) prompted him to compose his first opera, Esmeralda (1841), while he became a noted singing teacher and began writing songs. Resigning his official post in 1843, he travelled abroad and from 1845 experimented in his songs with characteristic Russian speech patterns, striving for direct expression of texts on everyday subjects through a declamatory vocal line and simple chordal accompaniment. The operas Rusalka (1855), with its colourful folk setting, and above all The Stone Guest (1866-9; completed by Cui and Rimsky-Korsakov, 1870) were the culmination of his quest for truthful musical expression of emotions. Although the latter has never been popular, even in Russia, it has been seen as a strong influence on Russian nationalist composers, particularly Musorgsky, and is the work by which Dargomïzhsky is chiefly known. His orchestral works, the folksong-based fantasies Baba-Yaga (1862) and Kazochok (1864), and the Finnish Fantasy (1863-7), are effective 'curtain-raisers' in the tradition of Glinka.

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