Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Donald Macleod focuses on Balakirev's early career in St Petersburg, when he interited the mantle of 'father of Russian music' from Mikhail Glinka.

A "saintly prig" he was described as - 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.

Balakirev made a name for himself in St Petersburg not only as a composer, but also as a concert pianist with works such as his Grand Fantasy on Russian Folksongs. However, he felt 'forced to perform in public', even in the presence of the Tsar and members of the Imperial family, and wished to pursue his musical career in composition.

Before Glinka died, he had virtually anointed Balakirev as his musical heir, to uphold the Russian national style. Balakirev became interested in collecting folk music, in order to develop an authentic kind of Russian music, such as his Overture on Three Russian Themes. His overtures based on folk music would become blueprints for future generations of composers, and Balakirev had already started to collect around him an orbiting system of satellite talents including Mussorgsky - a group later to be known as The Mighty Handful.

1 hour

Music Played

  • Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev

    Spanish Serenade 1856 rev. 1902

    Performer: Alexander Paley, piano

    • Brilliant 92617/6.
  • Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev

    Grande Fantaisie on Russian Folksongs opus 4 (1852)

    Performer: Anastasia Seifetdinova, piano Performer: Russian Philharmonic Orchestra Performer: Dmitry Yablonsky, conductor

    • Naxos 8.570396.
  • Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev

    Overture to King Lear (c.1859)

    Performer: Vassily Sinaisky, conductor Performer: BBC Philharmonic

    • Chandos CHAN241-29.
  • Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev

    My Restless Heart, no. 9 from Twenty Songs (1858)

    Performer: Olga Borodina, mezzo-soprano Performer: Larissa Gergieva, piano

    • Philips 4427802.
  • Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev

    Song of Selim, no. 11 from Twenty Songs (1858)

    Performer: Piotr Glouboky, bass Performer: Ilya Scheps, piano

    • Saison Russe LDC288037.
  • Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev

    Overture on three Russian themes (1858 rev.1881)

    Performer: Yevgeny Svetlanov, conductor Performer: The Philharmonia

    • Hyperion CDA66586.

Broadcasts

Composers A to Z

Composers A to Z

Visit the extensive audio archive of Radio 3 programmes about Composers and their works.

Who knew? Five eye-opening stories from Composer of the Week

Who knew? Five eye-opening stories from Composer of the Week

The production team reflects on 5 of Donald Macleod’s best stories from the last 20 years

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

The composer of Jerusalem was very far from the conservative figure his image suggests.

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

What is the strange power of Jerusalem which makes strong men weep?

Composer Help Page

Composer Help Page

Find resources and contacts for composers from within the classical music industry.