Living in the Middle of a Battlefield
He was considered a revolutionary in the realms of sacred music, and survived the privations of the Bolshevik uprising, to emigrate (eventually) to the USA - Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Aleksandr Grechaninov.
Conflict is the main theme of this fourth programme in which Donald Macloed surveys the life and music of Aleksandr Grechaninov. The Orthodox Church were keeping a close eye on this revolutionary composer who had dared to question their authority. They banned Grechaninov's second opera Sister Beatrice as blasphemous, and his sacred music such as the Cantata Praise the Lord opus 65, would have to be premiered in a concert hall, not a religious venue, for it dared to use instruments.
Although Grechaninov was awarded a pension by the Tsar, and his works were proving very popular, no one was safe during the revolution of 1917. Grechaninov and his wife would find themselves close to starvation, and he ended up in a sanatorium due to malnutrition. During this period, Grechaninov would give a number of concerts for children in hospitals, where he would start to generate ideas for his set of ten piano pieces for children opus 99.
Life was becoming a risky business for the Grechaninov family, as they found their house in the middle of a no-man's-land between two warring sides. They were scared to go outside for fear of being hit by a stray bullet. In fact the Bolsheviks searched their house, convinced that there were snipers operating from there, and subsequently closed off a lot of the rooms to Grechaninov, including his study. However, a ray of light came in the guise of Charles Crane who paid for Grechaninov and his wife to visit London, and who also paid for new clothes, and the best food and accommodation. Upon returning to Russia refreshed, there was a new economic policy which made circumstances a little better, and Grechaninov gave a number of concerts including the premiere of his third symphony opus 100.