The composer Mily Balakirev was born on this day in 1836.
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.
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.
- Schonberg, Harold C. The Lives of the Great Composers
Edit on 2020-08-29: Updated format. Optimized for new site.