Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Moskwa Cantata
(b. Votkinsk, 7 May 1840 – d. St. Petersburg, 6 November 1893)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky earned his title of one of the greatest and famed Russian composers throughout his career, which has carried on into the modern age, well past his death. Tchaikovsky greatly aided in the establishment of the secular Russian music canon in the nineteenth century. His works and career inspired many Russian composers who succeeded him including Sergei Rachmaninov (1873–1943), Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971), and Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975), among countless others.
Until the eighteenth century, religious or folk melodies primarily dominated Russian music. Starting with Tsar Peter I, the Russian Imperial Court became an epicenter of Western music for the Russian aristocracy. European musicians traveled to Russia to perform for the upper class of Russian society and inspire a multitude of Russian composers for many years following. Native Russians faced the difficulty of receiving a thorough music education in their home country throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and were forced to travel abroad for training due to lack of opportunity, classism, and distance from Western Europe.
Throughout the 1700s, several Russian composers studied abroad and returned to compose in their homeland with their newly acquired Western training.
In the 1800s, marked by the career of Mikhail Glinka (1804–1857), a uniquely Russian music tradition emerged. Harkening back to the past, Glinka utilized the traditional folk melodies to create a distinctly Russian secular musical genre. His work became the catalyst for a group of composers known as “The Mighty Five,” “The Russian Five,” and “The Mighty Handful,” who incorporated traditional Russian melodies and stories into the classical music canon. Starting in the 1850s, the Mighty Five’s composers—Mily Balakirev (1837–1910), Alexander Borodin (1833–1887), César Cui (1835–1918), Modest Mussorgsky (1839–1881), and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1884–1908)—pioneered a new age of Russian music and education through the use of traditional folk melodies familiar to most Russians. Their compositions are marked by a highly nationalistic tone—not trying to win the approval of the Western standard of music education. …
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