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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Similar threads to this one have appeared on TalkClassical, mostly in the form of polls. Two things prompted my choice of this topic: (1) having led a thread on Glazunov's symphonic poems and comparable works, I wanted to compare the works of other Russian nineteenth-century orchestral composers; (2) also for comparison, the topic is similar in concept to much more detailed threads I've initiated in the past on Neglected German/Austrian and Unheralded French nineteenth-century orchestral composers. I haven't, however, listened yet to all of the relevant works by these Russian composers.

On these chronological lists are Russian composers active mainly in the nineteenth century who wrote orchestral and/or concertante music. I haven't included composers from countries other than Russia that were later part of the Soviet Union. There are three lists: Most Favored Composers; Favored Composers; Composers Worth Consideration. This time, whether composers were considered neglected or unheralded was not a factor in the selection.

Please post comments and discussion on any of these composers. I'll be sure to reply and add information as appropriate. Good luck!

Most Favored Composers: P. Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glazunov, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff

Favored Composers: Glinka, Balakirev, Borodin, Mussorgsky, Taneyev

Composers Worth Consideration: Serov, A. Rubinstein, Cui, Liadov, Lyapunov, Ippolitov-Ivanov, Arensky, Kalinnikov
 

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This is the music that really got me hooked on the classics. The Most Favored of course need no support, but there's on Worth Consideration that I want to single out: Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov. If you look at concert programs prior to around 1960, one work of his, Caucasian Sketches, was ubiquitous. Then, inexplicably, except for the popular last movement, The Procession of the Sardar, it fell out of favor. Now, even that final march is rarely played. The work may not be some earth-shattering, profound masterpiece, but is quite enjoyable, skillfully written, beautifully scored. It used to be recorded with some regularity: Rodzinski, Scherchen, Abravanel all did it. Bernstein, Ormandy, Fiedler did the Procession. But in the past 40 years of the CD era, only Marco Polo (Naxos) Chandos and ASV have done it With lesser-known orchestras and conductors. It's too bad, because the music is right there in the Russian Nationalist mainstream style with the "Orientalisms" that is so attractive in Rimsky-Korsakov and Balakirev. Ok, I know that it's never going to become a staple of the New York Philharmonic or Cleveland or Chicago or Berlin orchestras. But it's even vanished from the repertoire of amateur and semi-pro orchestras which really need to play music that isn't as challenging as Scheherazade.

Ippolitov-Ivanov wrote a great deal of other music. A second Caucasian suite, the Turkish Fragments, a symphony (ok, it's pretty weak) and some gorgeous choral music, the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and the Vespers. Deeply, profoundly moving music.

Conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos told a touching story: after concert in Minneapolis which ended with the Borodin 2nd, a shabbily dressed, elderly man came up to him and thank him for playing "his friends" symphony, which he hadn't heard in a long time but happened to be at the premiere of it many years ago. Mitropoulos was taken aback, and was shocked when the man introduced himself as Ippolitov-Ivanov who had by then fled the Soviet Union and somehow wound up in Minnesota for that concert.

There is so much of his music that hasn't been performed, much less recorded. He's one composer who really needs advocacy so maybe we can hear some of his chamber music, any of the operas, the film music and so much more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos told a touching story: after concert in Minneapolis which ended with the Borodin 2nd, a shabbily dressed, elderly man came up to him and thank him for playing "his friends" symphony, which he hadn't heard in a long time but happened to be at the premiere of it many years ago. Mitropoulos was taken aback, and was shocked when the man introduced himself as Ippolitov-Ivanov who had by then fled the Soviet Union and somehow wound up in Minnesota for that concert.

There is so much of his music that hasn't been performed, much less recorded. He's one composer who really needs advocacy so maybe we can hear some of his chamber music, any of the operas, the film music and so much more.
Thank you, mhaub, for your valuable post. I don't know much of Ippolitov-Ivanov's music. Of the orchestral works I've listened to, I agree the best are the two suites of Caucasian Sketches and the Turkish Fragments. The others I've heard are: Yar Khmel: Spring Overture on Russian Folk Songs (1882), Symphonic Scherzo (1882), and Armenian Rhapsody (1995). I didn't know that he'd written a symphony. Sad that this composer-conductor who was also a sophisticated investigator into the music of several nationalities -- in particular Georgia where he was head of the Tbilisi Conservatory -- ended up in obscurity.

Also, I missed Alexander Gretchaninov for some reason and look forward to hearing his symphonies. Do you have any comments on Gretchaninov?

P.S. In the OP I mentioned "composers active mainly in the nineteenth century" but of course some were more active in the twentieth century. The actual cut-off year of birth is 1874; the late Romantic composers Gliere (b. 1875) and Medtner (b. 1880) are therefore missing, the reason being that I haven't listened to much of their music yet.
 

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These 22 sum up my overall tastes regarding outstanding Russian Romantic composers:

Tchaikovsky
Rachmaninov
Rimsky-Korsakov
Glazunov
Taneyev
Glière
Borodin
Balakirev
Arensky
Myaskovsky (to some extent)
Scriabin
Rubinstein
Mussorgsky
Glinka
N. Tcherepnin
Steinberg
Kalinnikov
Gretchaninov
Medtner
Lyapunov
Catoire
Lyadov
 

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Also, I missed Alexander Gretchaninov for some reason and look forward to hearing his symphonies. Do you have any comments on Gretchaninov?
I've picked up all of the Gretchaninov music that Chandos mercifully released. The man knew how to write for orchestra, full of color and unquestionable Russian sounding. The problem is the material is pretty thin stuff. Like so many other composers, I think he got worse as he went along. The first symphony is a delightful work; anyone who likes say Kalinnikov or Glazunov should relish it. The second is a bit weaker and then it's downhill from there, sad to say. But those first two are decent enough, enjoyable enough that they would make good selections for smaller, amateur orchestras. The problem is getting the performance materials. Some of Gretchaninovs choral work I enjoy, too. The Chandos release of Passion Week is breathtakingly beautiful. Some of the chamber music, like the string quartets on Marco Polo are interesting enough. Certainly anyone interested in Russian Nationalism should know some of his works.
 

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I've already expressed my love for Mussorgsky. Tchaikovsky (waltzes, Nutcracker, Swan Lake) was one of my early entries into CM (at 8 or 9). At about 12 I got a bargain bin LP of Caucasian Sketches for a buck or two and have always liked it, but haven't heard it for years. The few times I played Gliere on the radio, he reminded me of Broadway for some reason. Nothing by Borodin asks me to play it more frequently than every decade. Russian Easter, suite from Le Coq d'Or, and version of Boris Godunov do it for me for R-K (I overplayed Sheherazade many years ago, to its detriment). Glinka I have always heard good things about but can't say I know any of his music!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
These 22 sum up my overall tastes regarding outstanding Russian Romantic composers:
Thank you -- I'm adding N. Tcherepnin and M. Steinberg to my Composers Worth Consideration list immediately. Is your list in order of preference? Also wondering how to deal with Myaskovsky ...

Just listened to Catoire's Piano Concerto in A-flat Major. The second movement is original and intriguing for me. In Arensky's early Piano Concerto in F Minor I also think the second movement is the best; even if the Chopin influence is pronounced he's beginning to find his voice there.
 

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I personally think it is worth noting that on the thread concerned with ten personal favourite symphonies Kalinnikov's 1st is mentioned more than once.

Myaskovsky.....not necessarily within the confines the initial question ( ie chronologically later) but it might be possible to argue his music does exhibit some of the attributes of Russian music this thread is concerned with....any 'excuse' to listen to the wonderfiul 27th should not be ignored!
 
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If you want to extend it and include Myaskovsky (why not?) you also might want to consider Yevgeny Svetlanov. Not only a conductor of considerable accomplishment, but a composer worthy of attention. He made recordings of a huge amount of the Russian repertoire and there's no doubt that he picked up some pointers from the old guys along the way: his Symphony no. 1 is right there in the style and orchestral wizardry that you'll love. The copy I have was on the Russian Disk label from 30 years ago and I don't know if it's available anywhere, but look for it - his other music that he recorded is well worth your time, too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Jim Prideaux, I like Kalinikov too -- both symphonies in fact. Have seen Myaskowsky described as late Romantic (post-Romantic maybe?) but would have to hear more than the 1st and a couple of symphonic poems that I've listened to so far. Thanks for your recommendation of his 27th -- maybe going backwards chronologically, or perhaps mixing up the order of the symphonies, or choosing a few of the best for now, would be better strategies than 1, 2, 3, ..... 27!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
If you want to extend it and include Myaskovsky (why not?) you also might want to consider Yevgeny Svetlanov. Not only a conductor of considerable accomplishment, but a composer worthy of attention.
I'm looking forward to listening to Svetlanov's orchestral compositions -- symphonies and symphonic poems.
 

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Jim Prideaux, I like Kalinikov too -- both symphonies in fact. Have seen Myaskowsky described as late Romantic (post-Romantic maybe?) but would have to hear more than the 1st and a couple of symphonic poems that I've listened to so far. Thanks for your recommendation of his 27th -- maybe going backwards chronologically, or perhaps mixing up the order of the symphonies, or choosing a few of the best for now, would be better strategies than 1, 2, 3, ..... 27!
When it comes to Kalinnikov, count me in - less of a melodist perhaps than some, but wonderful colour and atmosphere. In addition to his Symph.no.1 (no.2 doesn't get to me quite as much) I particularly like the symphonic poem "The Cedar and The Palm" and the String Serenade.
 

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Jim Prideaux, I like Kalinikov too -- both symphonies in fact. Have seen Myaskowsky described as late Romantic (post-Romantic maybe?) but would have to hear more than the 1st and a couple of symphonic poems that I've listened to so far. Thanks for your recommendation of his 27th -- maybe going backwards chronologically, or perhaps mixing up the order of the symphonies, or choosing a few of the best for now, would be better strategies than 1, 2, 3, ..... 27!
I would interested to know what you make of the 27th. That is my own personal favourite but I would advise against discounting the others as they are all really worth listening to.

Might I also suggest (for example) 21,24 and 25 (if my memory serves me right)

Unlike many 'critics' I also really enjoy the symphonies of Glazunov (particularly 4-7) and am frequently amazed at how dismissive some of the descriptions of these works can be.
 
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
A Brief Aside

As with previous threads on German and French orchestral music, I'm keeping late romantic composers separate from modernist ones. I like both periods of music and have spent a lot of time with the music of each type. When I came to TalkClassical there was a lot of friction between partisans of one versus the other. I was hoping that with this separation the threads wouldn't be derailed by animosity between them -- fortunately they weren't. And now there's less conflict on TC.

But the larger issue to me is that the "break" at the turn of the 19-20th centuries is more profound and thoroughgoing than those between other eras. I've been influenced on this by books like The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes, Real Presences by George Steiner, and Rites of Spring by Modris Ecksteins. I don't want to get into discussion of the different sensibilities involved; for me they need to be considered separately. Actually I wouldn't dream of doing this kind of survey with modernist composers. The music is too complex, too diverse, requiring more time with fewer compositions. And I like modernist music but with "different ears," a "different sense of motion," or a "different brain and heart," all speculative and not settled for me but this is the best I can do for the moment.

And now back to late romantic Russian orchestral composers, most definitely including Myaskovsky and Svetlanov, and maybe a few more yet to be named.
 

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I would interested to know what you make of the 27th. That is my own personal favourite but I would advise against discounting the others as they are all really worth listening to.

Might I also suggest (for example) 21,24 and 25 (if my memory serves me right)

Unlike many 'critics' I also really enjoy the symphonies of Glazunov (particularly 4-7) and am frequently amazed at how dismissive some of the descriptions of these works can be.
Maybe I've just heard the wrong recordings but, though I'm a fan of the Russian repertoire in general and enjoy exploring its lesser-known byways, I'm afraid I tend to find Glazunov passes me by somewhat. "The Seasons" is lovely and quite the equal of Tchaikovsky's ballets for me, but I'm still searching for a way into Glazunov apart from that.
 

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Thank you -- I'm adding N. Tcherepnin and M. Steinberg to my Composers Worth Consideration list immediately. Is your list in order of preference? Also wondering how to deal with Myaskovsky ...

Just listened to Catoire's Piano Concerto in A-flat Major. The second movement is original and intriguing for me. In Arensky's early Piano Concerto in F Minor I also think the second movement is the best; even if the Chopin influence is pronounced he's beginning to find his voice there.
Sort of, at least for the first ten, albeit I could put Myaskovsky higher in my list.

Nicolai Tcherepnin could be described as late-Romantic, so are Reinhold Glière and Maximilian Steinberg. Myaskovsky, despite he was the father of the Soviet symphony, retains much romanticism in his music, hence I decided to include him, but strictly speaking, he's not a Romantic composer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Nobody mentioned Karl Davydov, whom Pyotr Tchaikovsky described as "czar of cellists". Davydov composed among others four cello concertos and transcribed and arranged Chopin's solo piano works for cello and piano accompaniment.
I've listened to Davydov's Cello Concerto No. 2 and found much to enjoy. It's at the cutting edge of cello technique for its time. The first movement cadenza is excellent, including a remarkable passage of high-positioned triads with melody plus fingered tremolo. The second has a lyrical solo cello melody that becomes a lovely clarinet-cello duet. The sprightliness of the finale in 6/8 time drew me in too. I'd never heard of Davydov; he reminds me a bit of composer-cellist-pedagogue Julius Klengel who I found out about only three years ago. True cellist-composers, not cellists who composed some.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Maybe I've just heard the wrong recordings but, though I'm a fan of the Russian repertoire in general and enjoy exploring its lesser-known byways, I'm afraid I tend to find Glazunov passes me by somewhat. "The Seasons" is lovely and quite the equal of Tchaikovsky's ballets for me, but I'm still searching for a way into Glazunov apart from that.
I didn't get into Glazunov until I was over 65. Actually I think he got into me. Maybe his m.o. is to come when you need him -- who knows?
 
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