Cui, César (Antonovkh)

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Cui, César (Antonovkh)

Cui, César (Antonovkh) , Russian composer; b. Vilnius, Jan. 18, 1835; d. Petrograd, March 26, 1918. He was the son of a soldier in Napoleon’s army who remained in Russia, married a Lithuanian noblewoman, and settled as a teacher of French in Vilnius. Cui learned musical notation by copying Chopin’s mazurkas and various Italian operas, then tried his hand at composition on his own. In 1849 he took lessons with Moniuszko in Vilnius. In 1850 he went to St. Petersburg, where he entered the Engineering School in 1851 and later the Academy of Military Engineering (1855). After graduation in 1857, he became a topographer and later an expert in fortification. He participated in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877; in 1878 he became a prof, at the Engineering School and was tutor in military fortification to Czar Nicholas II. In 1856 Cui met Balakirev, who helped him master the technique of composition. In 1858 he married Malvina Bamberg; for her he wrote a scherzo on the theme BABEG (for the letters in her name) and CC (his own initials). In 1864 he began writing music criticism in the St. Petersburg Vedomosti and later in other newspapers, continuing as music critic until 1900. Cui’s musical tastes were conditioned by his early admiration for Schumann. He opposed Wagner, against whom he wrote vitriolic articles, and he attacked Strauss and Reger with even greater violence. He was an ardent propagandist of Glinka and the Russian national school, but was somewhat critical toward Tchaikovsky. He publ. the first comprehensive book on Russian music, Musique en Russie (Paris, 1880). Cui was grouped with Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Borodin, and Balakirev as one of the “Moguchaya Kuchka” (Mighty 5); the adjective in his case, however, is not very appropriate, for his music lacks grandeur. He was at his best in delicate miniatures, e.g., Orientale, from the suite Kaleidoscope, op.50. Editions of his selected articles were publ. in Petrograd (1918) and Leningrad (1952), and of his selected letters in Leningrad (1955).


DRAMATIC Opera : Kaukazskiy plennik (The Prisoner of the Caucasus; 1857–58,1881–82; St. Petersburg, Feb. 16, 1883); S’in mandarina (The Mandarin’s Son), comic opera (1859; St. Petersburg, Dec. 19, 1878); William Ratdiff’(1861–68; St. Petersburg, Feb. 26, 1869); Angela (1871–75; St. Petersburg, Feb. 13, 1876; rev. version, Moscow, Jan. 17, 1901); Mlada, opera-ballet (1872; concert perf., Petrograd, Feb. 1917; in collaboration with Borodin, Minkus, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov); Le flibuestier (1888–89; Paris, Jan. 22, 1894); Pir vo vremya chumi (A Feast in Time of Plague; 1895–97,1900; Moscow, Nov. 24, 1901). Saratsm (The Saracen; 1896–98; St. Petersburg, Nov. 14, 1899); Mademuazel Fifi (1902–03; Moscow, Nov. 17, 1903); Snezhn’iy bogati’r (Hero of the Snows), children’s opera (Yalta, May 28, 1906); Mateo Falcone (Moscow, Dec. 27, 1907); Kapitanskaya dochka (The Captain’s Daughter; 1907–09; St. Petersburg, Feb. 27, 1911); Krasnaya shapochka (Little Red Riding Hood), children’s fairly tale opera (1911); Kot v sapogakh (Puss in Boots), children’s fairy tale opera (1913; Tiflis, Jan. 12, 1916); Ivanushkadurachok (Ivanushka the Little Fool), children’s fairy tale opera (1913). ORCH.: 2 scherzos (both 1857; orchestrated from piano pieces); Tarantella (1859); Marche solennelle (1881); Suite miniature (1882); Deux morceaux for Violin and Orch. (1884; also for Violin and Piano); Suite concertante for Violin and Orch. (1884; also for Violin and Piano); Deux morceaux for Cello and Orch. (1886; also for Cello and Piano); Suites Nos. two (1887), three (1890), and four (1887); Waltz (1904); 3 Scherzos (1910). CHAMBER : Violin Sonata (c. 1865); Petite suite for Violin and Piano (1879); 12 Miniatures for Violin and Piano (1882); 7 Miniatures for Violin and Piano (1886); three string quartets (1890, 1907, 1913); Kaleidoscope, 24 pieces for Violin and Piano (1893); Tarantelle for Violin and Piano (1893); 6 Bagatelles for Violin and Piano (c. 1893); 5 Little Duets for Flute and Violin (1897); Barcarolle for Cello and Piano (1910); many solo piano pieces. VOCAL: Choral works; numerous songs.


L. Mercy-Argenteau, C. C.: Esquisse critique (Paris, 1888); S. Neef, Die Russischen Ftinf: Balakirew, Borodin, C., Mussorgski, Rimski-Korsakoiv: Monographien, Dokumente, Briefe, Programme, Werke (Berlin, 1992).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire