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Glinka, Mikhail Ivanovich
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Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka

(Born; Novospasskoye [now Glinka], 1 June 1804; Died; Berlin, 15 Feb 1857). Russian composer. Having come to know rural folk music in its purer forms, and receiving an unsystematic musical education in St Petersburg and on his sojourn in Italy (1830-33), he neither inherited a tradition of sophisticated composition nor developed a distinctive and consistent personal style. But he exerted a profound and freely acknowledged influence on Balakirev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Borodin and Tchaikovsky, as well as on Prokofiev and Stravinsky. His first important compositions, written in Berlin (1834), where he studied briefly with Siegfried Dehn, were a Capriccio for piano duet and an unfinished symphony, both applying variation technique to Russian themes. It was his opera A Life for the Tsar (1836; originally Ivan Susanin) that established him overnight as Russia's leading composer. Though its national character derives from melodic content alone (mostly merely quasi-Russian), it is nevertheless significant for its novel, expressive Russian recitative and for its use of the leitmotif. His next opera, Ruslan and Lyudmila (1842), based on Pushkin's fantastic, ironic fairy-tale, was less well received, being structurally unsuited to the stage and musically haphazard, yet it contains elements of striking originality, including Chernomor's grotesque little march, pungent touches of chromatic colour, exuberant rhythms, the use of the whole-tone scale and the 'changing background' technique for folktune presentation. Inspiring the oriental and 'magic' idioms of later Russian composers, this opera proved to be seminal in the history of Russian music. At Paris (1844-5) Glinka enjoyed Berlioz's music and in Spain (1845-7) folk music and fresh visual impressions; two Spanish Overtures resulted, exceeded in inventiveness however by the kaleidoscopic orchestral variations Kamarinskaya (1848). Among the rich legacy of his songs, the Pushkin settings Where is our rose?, I recall a wonderful moment, Adèle and The toasting cup are particularly fine.

Dramatic music: Ivan Susanin [A Life for the Tsar], opera (1836); Ruslan and Lyudmila, opera (1842); incidental music.

Instrumental music: Kamarinskaya, orch (1848); ovs., other orch pieces; Str Qt. F (1830); sextet, EFlat; (1832); variations, mazurkas for pf; pf duets, incl. Capriccio on Russian Themes, A (1834).

Vocal music: songs, partsongs, choruses, hymns.

© Groves Dictionaries, MacMillan Publishers Limited, UK

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