On This Day (January 2)…Happy Birthday, Mily Balakirev!

The composer Mily Balakirev was born on this day in 1836.

Retrieved from here.

Balakirev came of age in a time prior to a great Russian canon or even much in the way of Russian music schools; only Mikhail Glinka’s turn to Russian folk music as inspiration existed at the time. With a small amount of teaching from private sources, access to a music library and inspired by Glinka, Balakirev spent his career giving genesis to the Russian compositional tradition. Of course, he wrote a great many works himself, including a prodigious piano output, tone poems, songs, symphonies, and incidental music.

The real reason for the extent of his influence lies not in his compositional work, however, but rather in his mentorship of others. Under his iron will and tutelage, a cabal of young Russian composers flourished: Cesar Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Alexander Borodin, and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Together, they became known as the Mighty Handful or Mighty Five. The quintet are hailed as the Russian nationalist composers, all brought together under the influence of Balakirev.

Photo of Mily Balakirev around the time he was most strongly associated with the Mighty Five. Retrieved from here.

Despite his massive influence on the Russian canon, Balakirev’s own music is not performed or listened to much anymore. This site has users’ favorite works of his, which can serve as suggestions on where new listeners should start.

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Edit on 2020-08-29: Updated format. Optimized for new site.

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