Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev

He was described by Tchaikovsky as a "saintly prig" - hugely influential, obstinate, and argumentative, Mily Balakirev saw himself as the 'Father of Russian Music', inheriting the mantle direct from his idol Glinka, whilst also being the pivotal figure at the centre of The Mighty Handful.

He was the first significant Russian musician to engage in collecting folksongs, as he was keen to develop an authentic kind of Russian music. These traditional musical forms would filter into his own works such as Tamara, creating exotic and oriental sounds that would be emulated by other composers. His overtures based on folk song would also become a blueprint for future generations. Although Balakirev would later quarrel with all members of The Mighty Handful, not least of all due to his overbearing personality, if he hadn't encouraged Mussorgsky, Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov to pursue composition, they all might have followed very different careers.

In the first episode exploring the life and music of Mily Balakirev, Donald Macleod looks at the composer's early years. He was born in Nizhy-Novgorod, but a well-off patron would soon take Balakirev under his wing, and with Ulybyshev's influence including a library stocked full of musical scores, Balakirev would eventually have the opportunity of meeting his musical hero Glinka, in St Petersburg.

Balakirev would present a number of his early works to Glinka, including his one movement Octet opus 3, and a piano work based on Glinka's opera A Life for the Tsar. The piano would always be a huge influence on Balakirev, and his Piano Concerto no.1 demonstrates many of the earlier influences from composers he probably studied or heard at Ulybyshev's house.

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1 hour, 5 minutes


Role Contributor
ComposerMily Alexeyevich Balakirev

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