Nationalism in Russian Music

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Nationalism in music started to emerge in Russia in the nineteenth Century. The national musical style of Russia had an emphasis on Russian folk songs and tunes. Nationalism was taking part in other regions such as Bohemia, Scandinavia, Poland, Holland, Belgium, Hungary, Poland, Spain, Portugal and also in North America. It was a rebellion from the Italian, French and German tradition of music who were the dominant forces in music.
There was a composer in Russia, Verstovsky, with his imitation of Italian and French music was a forerunner but the real founder of National Russian music was Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka (1804-1857). He composed two operas “A Life for the Tsar” (1836) and “Russlan and Ludmilla” (1842). “Both operas have the quality of folk song and are at the same time modern” (Alfred Einstein, 1947, p.305). His operas showed his nationalism and they both had very pro Russian stories. They also had the Russian features which were simple folk-idioms in the melody and rhythm. His first opera “A Life for the Tsar” became a popular opera which was put on to open every opera season. His second opera “Russlan and Ludmilla” did not really get noticed much. He is said to have been too far ahead of his time in terms of his music. In his second opera he used whole tone scales which was a new harmonic idea. He also composed overtures and songs. He watched what was happening in Europe in terms of musical matters but he didn’t imitate it. He didn’t want to lose the national identity.
A man who was called Alexander Sergeyevich Dargomijsky (1813-1869) played a big role in the history of Russian music. He was the main man who stood between Glinka and the generation to come after. He met with Glinka in 1833 and got some of Glinkas notes...

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... and melodies. He is especially known for his vivid portrayal of Russian life through his works. Borodin wrote songs, string quartets and symphonies. His most famous work is the opera "Prince Igor" which was left unfinished when he died in 1887. The said opera was completed by Aleksandr Glazunov and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. Cui is perhaps the least known member, but he was also one of the staunch supporters of Russian nationalist music. He was a music critic and professor of fortifications at a military academy in St. Petersburg, Russia. Cui is especially known for his songs and piano pieces.

Works Cited

Alfred Einstein (1947). Music in the Romantic Era: A History of musical thought in the 19th century. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Leon Plantinga (1984). Romantic Music: a history of musical style in nineteenth-century Europe. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
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