Glinka, Mikhail

views updated Jun 08 2018


GLINKA, MIKHAIL (1804–1857), the first of the Russian national composers.

One characteristic of nineteenth century European music was the formation of national schools that combined the ideas of the "great" music nations (Italy, France, and Germany had been style setters since the eighteenth century) with typical national elements. In this context, Mikhail Glinka is regarded as the father of Russian music. His two main works, the operas A Life for the Tsar and Ruslan and Lyudmila, marked the beginning of a genuinely Russian music culture that after Glinka's death was to become highly significant in Europe.

Glinka was born in Novospasskoye (now Glinka) in 1804 as a son of a landowner. Church services, the folk songs of his nanny, and his uncle's orchestra of serfs provided the young Glinka with his first musical experiences. Soon he began taking piano and violin lessons, which he continued after moving to St. Petersburg in 1817. Having concluded his general education at a boarding school for noble students, he worked as a civil servant in the Russian capital to support his material existence. The real interest of the musically gifted Glinka, however, was the salons of the intellectuals, where he became acquainted with poets such as Alexander Pushkin, Vasily Zhukovsky, and Alexander Griboyedov, among others. Decisive for his creative career was a stay of several years in Germany and Italy, where he intensively absorbed European music life and personally came to know the composers Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, and Hector Berlioz. In 1833, Glinka, whose musical training until then had not progressed beyond refined dilettantism, studied compositional theory in Berlin with Siegfried Dehn, an authority in this field.

Back in St. Petersburg in the following year, Glinka, who had previously tried his hand at only minor pieces, began to work on an opera about the Russian folk hero Ivan Susanin. The first performance of the opera, dedicated to Tsar Nicholas I with the title A Life for the Tsar, on 27 November 1836 was a sensational success. The story of a Russian peasant who in the "time of troubles" at the beginning of the seventeenth century sacrificed his life for the Russian tsar and so contributed to the defeat of the Polish occupiers met the ideological demands of Nicholas I's era, which was characterized by the patriotic trinity of "autocracy, orthodoxy, and nationality." In spite of a certain stylistic conservatism that could not deny the western European influence, the importance of the work as a genuine Russian opera in the context of an Italian-dominated music theater was immediately recognized by his contemporaries. The achievement of Glinka, who had received only semi-professional training at best, was remarkable.

Less successful, although perhaps even more creative, was Glinka's second opera, Ruslan and Lyudmila (based on Pushkin's poem), first performed in 1842. The unbalance and lack of dramaturgical stringency of the libretto, which was taken from a Russian fairy tale, were regarded as problematic. Nevertheless, Ruslan and Lyudmila was to become the second foundation of Russian classical music. Whereas A Life for the Tsar began the tradition of Russian historical opera, Ruslan and Lyudmila established the genre of the Russian fairy-tale opera, and introduced orientalism into Russian music. But the lukewarm reception of his second opera and the unbroken enthusiasm of Russians for Italian music theater embittered Glinka deeply. He sought refuge in extensive travels abroad, composed some smaller orchestral works (among others, the fantasy Kamarinskaya and the two Spanish Overtures), and renewed his studies with Dehn. Glinka's desire to dedicate himself to church music was left unfulfilled: the musician, who was in poor health throughout his life, died prematurely in Berlin in 1857.

Glinka soon became known as a spiritual father to all of his "successors"—the nationally oriented circle of Mily Balakirev, Modest Mussorgsky, and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, as well as Peter Tchaikovsky, who had the reputation of being a musical westerner. Although Glinka also composed smaller orchestral works, chamber and piano music, and numerous songs, it was his two operas that were decisive for the development of Russian music culture.

With the genres of the historical and fairy-tale opera, Glinka established a framework for a series of master works of Russian music theater. His combination of basic components of European music culture with a specific Russian melos, drawing on folk motives and oriental influences referring to the Asian and Caucasian aspects of the Russian Empire, became a model for future generations of composers. In western Europe especially, open-minded progressionists such as Franz Liszt and Berlioz recognized Glinka's importance as a pioneer of Russian musical expression. After the fall of the tsarist reign, Glinka's influence lasted in the Soviet Union. Soviet patriotic culture, based on Russian nationalism and Soviet discourse, turned the composer into a national hero. A Life for the Tsar was renamed Ivan Susanin—the title originally conceived by the composer—and Glinka's works maintained their canonical validity as the first milestones of Russian classical music.

See alsoMussorgsky, Modest; Nicholas I; Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolai; Westernizers.


Brown, David. Mikhail Glinka: A Biographical and Critical Study. London, 1974.

Glinka, Mikhail Ivanovich. Memoirs. Translated by Richard B. Mudge. Westport, Conn., 1963. Translation of Zapiski (1854–1855).

Taruskin, Richard. Defining Russia Musically: Historical and Hermeneutical Essays. Princeton, N.J., 1997.

Matthias Stadelmann

Glinka, Mikhail (Ivanovich)

views updated Jun 11 2018

Glinka, Mikhail (Ivanovich)

Glinka, Mikhail (Ivanovich), great Russian composer, often called “the father of Russian music” for his pioneering cultivation of Russian folk modalities; b. Novospasskoye, Smolensk district, June 1, 1804; d. Berlin, Feb. 15, 1857. A scion of a fairly rich family of landowners, he was educated at an exclusive school in St. Petersburg (1817-22). He also took private lessons in music; his piano teacher was a resident German musician, Carl Meyer; he also studied violin. When the pianist John Field was in St. Petersburg, Glinka had an opportunity to study with him, but he had only 3 lessons before Field departed. He began to compose even before acquiring adequate training in theory. As a boy, he traveled in the Caucasus, then stayed for a while at his father’s estate. At 20 he entered the Ministry of Communications in St. Petersburg, and remained in government employ until 1828, at the same time constantly improving his general education by reading; he had friends among the best Russian writers of the time, including the poets Zhukovsky and Pushkin. He also took singing lessons with an Italian teacher, Belloli. In 1830 he went to Italy; he continued irregular studies in Milan (where he spent most of his Italian years), and also visited Rome, Naples, and Venice. He became enamored of Italian music, and his early vocal and instrumental compositions are thoroughly Italian in melodic and harmonic structure. In 1833 he visited Vienna, and then went to Berlin, where he took a course in counterpoint and general composition with Dehn; thus he was nearly 30 when he completed his theoretical education. In 1834 his father died, and Glinka went back to Russia to take care of the family affairs. In 1835 he was married; the marriage was unhappy, and he soon separated from his wife, finally divorcing her in 1846. The return to his native land led him to consider the composition of a truly national opera on a subject (suggested to him by Zhukovsky) depicting a historical episode in Russian history: the saving of the first czar of the Romanov dynasty by a simple peasant, Ivan Susanin. Glinka’s opera was premiered in St. Petersburg on Dec. 9, 1836, under the title A Life for the Czar. The event was hailed by the literary and artistic circles of Russia as a milestone of Russian culture, and indeed the entire development of Russian national music received its decisive creative impulse from Glinka’s patriotic opera. It remained in the repertoire of Russian theaters until the Revolution made it unacceptable, but it was revived, under the original title, Ivan Susanin, on Feb. 27, 1939, in Moscow, and thereafter was again accorded an honored place in the Russian repertory. Glinka’s next opera, Ruslan and Ludmila, after Pushkin’s fairy tale, was first performed in St. Petersburg on Dec. 9, 1842; this opera, too, became extremely popular in Russia. Glinka introduced into the score many elements of oriental music; one episode contains the earliest use of the whole-tone scale in an opera. Both operas retain the traditional Italian form, with arias, choruses, and orch. episodes clearly separated. In 1844 Glinka was in Paris, where he met Berlioz; he also traveled in Spain, where he collected folk songs; the fruits of his Spanish tour were 2 orch. works, Jota Aragonesa and Night in Madrid. On his way back to Russia, he stayed in Warsaw for 3 years. The remaining years of his life were spent in St. Petersburg, Paris, and Berlin. V. Shebalin et al. ed. his complete works (Moscow, 1955-69).


DRAMATIC Opera : Rokeby, opera (1824; sketches only); Marina Rosheha, opera (1834; sketches only); Zhizn za tsarya (A Life for the Czar], opera (1834-36; 1st perf. as Ivan Susanin, St. Petersburg, Dec. 9, 1836); Ruslan i Lyudmila (Ruslan and Ludmila), opera (1837-42; St. Petersburg, Dec. 9, 1842); Dvumuzhnitsa (The Bigamist), opera (1855; sketches only; not extant). S t a g e : Moldavanka i ts’iganka (The Moldavian Girl and the Gypsy Girl), incidental music (1836); Scene at the Monastery (1837); Knyaz Kholmsky (Prince Kholmsky), incidental music (1840). ORCH.: 2 overtures (both c. 1822-26); Andante Cantabile and Rondo (c. 1823); Sym. (c. 1824; unfinished); Symphony on 2 Russian Themes (1834; unfinished; completed by V. Shebalin, 1938); Valse- Fantaisie (orig. for Piano, 1839; orchestrated 1845, not extant; reorchestrated 1856); Capriccio brillante on the Jota Aragonesa (1845; also known as 1st Spanish Overture); Kamarinskaya (1848); Recuerdos de Castila (1848; expanded as Souvenir d’une d’ete a Madrid, 1851; also known as 2nd Spanish Overture); Polonaise (1855); Concerto for Orchestra (n.d.; unfinished). CHAMBER: Septet (c. 1823; unfinished); 2 string quartets (1824, unfinished; 1830); Viola Sonata (1825-28); Divertimento brillante on themes from Bellini’s La sonnambula for Piano, 2 Violins, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass (1832); Serenata on themes from Donizetti’s Anna Bolena for Piano, Harp, Bassoon, Horn, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass (1832); Gran sestetto originale for Piano and String Quintet (1832); Trio pathetique for Piano, Clarinet, and Bassoon (1832); more than 55 piano pieces. VOCAL: Tarantella for Reciter, Chorus, and Orch. (1841); choral pieces; numerous songs.


O. Fouque, M.I. G. d’apres ses memoires et sa correspondance (Paris, 1880); V. S.[asov], ed., Zapiski M.I G. i perepiska evo s rodnimi i druzyami (M. I. G/s Memoirs and Correspondence with his Relations and Friends; St. Petersburg, 1887); N. Findeisen, M.I. G.: Evo zhizn i tvorcheskaya deyatelnost (M.I. G.: His Life and Creative Activity) (St. Petersburg, 1896); M. Calvo- coressi, G.: Biographic critique (Paris, 1911); M. Montagu-Nathan, G. (London, 1916); B. Asafiev, M.I. G. (Moscow, 1947); T. Livanova, ed., M.I. G.: Sbornik materialov i statyey (M.I. G.: Collection of Material and Articles; Moscow, 1950); A. Ossovsky, ed., M.I. G.: Issledovaniya i materiali’i (M.I. G.: Researches and Material; Leningrad and Moscow, 1950); E. KannNovikova, M.I. G.: Noviye materiali i dokumenti (M.I. G.: New Material and Documents; Moscow, 1950-55); A. Orlova and B. Asafiev, eds., Letopis zhizni i tvorchestva G. (Record of G/s Life and Work; Moscow, 1952; Eng. tr., 1988); V. Kiselyou et al., eds., Pamyati G. 1857-1957: Issledovaniya i materiaï (In Memory of G. 1857-1957: Research and Material; Moscow, 1958); D. Brown, G.: A Biographical and Critical Study (London, 1974).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka

views updated May 18 2018

Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka

The composer Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka (1804-1857) was the earliest important musical figure of 19th-century musical nationalism in Russia—indeed, Russia's first musical personage of importance. He is known as the father of Russian music.

Mikhail Glinka was born on May 20, 1804, in Novospasskoe, a village in Smolensk Province. From the age of 13 he was raised in St. Petersburg. His training was in the upper-class traditions of the capital. He moved in the circles that passed as enlightened for the time, and he experienced the atmosphere of ferment and question that prevailed in Russia with Western exposure, military and social, after 1812. He was said to have been sympathetic toward the Decembrist uprisings of 1825, yet later times found him politically conservative.

A prodigy, Glinka studied music with visiting foreigners in St. Petersburg. Of them, John Field should be mentioned as a strong influence, although the close relationship reported between the two is doubtful. He also studied in Italy, and in Berlin at the age of 33 he studied theory and composition with Siegfried Dehn.

Glinka adopted the practice of the numerous Italians dominating music in St. Petersburg: using stories and tunes from Russian historical and folk sources. Thus, his first opera, A Life for the Czar, or Ivan Susanin (1836), told the story of a Russian peasant's sacrifice as he misled Polish troops marching against the Czar. Although willing to accept the occasional folk reference from visiting Italians, many St. Petersburg opera goers found Glinka's effort "music for coachmen." Others, however, approved, and among them was the Czar.

With A Life for the Czar, Glinka not only opened Russia's first significant musical chapter but became one of the important figures of European 19th-century romantic nationalism. This coincidence of Russia's first musical efflorescence with the romantic-national phase of Western musical history has left an indelible mark on Russian and Soviet musical thinking to this day.

In his second opera, Ruslan and Ludmilla (1842), Glinka's effort at a "national" style was more marked. The same effort is heard in his numerous songs, a number of which are settings of texts by Aleksandr Pushkin. Glinka ventured also into symphonic music with overtures, the popular Kamarinsky (a fantasy on two Russian folk songs), and music for what has latterly been hailed as the "first Russian symphony" (1834; finished in 1948 by Vissarion Shebalin). His devotion to folk idiom was not limited to the Russian; he treated Middle Eastern, Finnish, Polish, Italian, and Spanish tunes as well. Ruslan and Ludmilla's disappointing reception led Glinka to spend more and more time abroad.

Glinka's influence on all subsequent Russian musical development was profound, not just as romantic and nationalist but also as essentially conservative in means. He encouraged Aleksandr Dargomyzhsky and Mily Balakirev on the one hand, Anton Rubinstein and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky on the other. That he was not as distinctly "Russian" as was fondly held in earlier decades is no slur on his talent, which was great. He died in Berlin, on his way to confer further with Dehn, on Feb. 3, 1857.

Further Reading

The newest view of Glinka in English is in Mikhail O. Zetlin, The Five: The Evolution of the Russian School of Music, translated and edited by George Panim (1959). Chapters on Glinka appear in M. D. Calvocoressi and Gerald Abraham, Masters of Russian Music (1936) and Donald Brook, Six Great Russian Composers (1946). Paul Henry Lang, Music in Western Civilization (1941), attempts to place Glinka in some historical perspective.

Additional Sources

Brown, David, Mikhail Glinka: a biographical and critical study, New York: Da Capo Press, 1985, 1974.

Glinka, Mikhail Ivanovich, Memoirs, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980, 1963.

Montagu-Nathan, M. (Montagu), Glinka, New York: AMS Press, 1976. □

Glinka, Mikhail Ivanovich

views updated May 18 2018


(18041857), composer, regarded as founder of Russian art music, especially as creator of Russian national opera.

Mikhail Glinka, the musically gifted son of a landowner, gained much of his musical education during a journey to Europe (18301834). In Italy he became acquainted with the opera composers Vincenzo Bellini and Gaetano Donizetti, and in Berlin he studied music theory. After his return, Glinka channeled the spiritual effects of the trip into the composition of a work that went down in history as the first Russian national opera, "A Life for the Tsar" (1836). Three aspects of this opera were formative to operatic style in Russia: the national subject (here taken from the seventeenth century), the libretto in Russian, and the musical language, which combined the European basic techniques with Russian melodic patterns. The patriotic character of the subject fit extremely well into the conservative national attitudes of the 1830s under Tsar Nicholas I. In spite of Glinka's stylistic borrowings from European tradition, the Russian features of the music made way for a national art music apart form the dominant foreign models. Overnight, Glinka became famous and soon was admired as the father of Russian music. Whereas the "Life for the Tsar" marked the beginning of the historical opera in Russia, "Ruslan and Lyudmila" (1842) established the genre of the Russian fairy-tale opera. Thus, Glinka embodied the two strands of Russian opera that would flourish in the nineteenth century. Stylistically Glinka's Russian and Oriental elements exerted greatest influence on the following generations. Glinka became not only a creative point of reference for many Russian composers but also a national and cultural role model, and later a figure of cult worship with the reestablishment of Soviet patriotism under Josef Stalin.

See also: music; opera


Brown, David. (1974). Mikhail Glinka: A Biographical and Critical Study. London: Oxford University Press.

Orlova, Aleksandra A. (1988). Glinka's Life in Music: A Chronicle. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Research Press.

Matthias Stadelmann

Glinka, Mikhail (Ivanovich)

views updated Jun 11 2018

Glinka, Mikhail (Ivanovich) (b Novospasskoye, Smolensk, 1804; d Berlin, 1857). Russ. composer, regarded as founder of nat. sch. and the first Russ. composer to be accepted outside Russia. Son of wealthy landowner. Interest in mus. aroused c.1815 when he heard a Crusell cl. qt. During general education in St Petersburg from 1817 had 3 pf. lessons from John Field. Also studied vn. and harmony. Worked in Ministry of Communications 1824–8 but gave recitals as amateur singer. In 1828 began serious study of comp. with Zamboni. Went to Milan 1830 where homesickness led him to contemplate writing a truly nat. opera, then to Vienna and Berlin 1833, studying comp. with Siegfried Dehn. Returned to St Petersburg to compose opera A Life for the Tsar, successfully prod. 1836. Appointed Kapellmeister, Imperial Chapel 1837. His second opera Ruslan and Lyudmila was prod. 1842. In 1844 visited Paris, meeting Berlioz, travelling on to Sp. where the folk-dance rhythms fascinated him. Returned to Russ. 1847, but made several more foreign journeys. Works incl.:OPERAS: A Life for the Tsar (Ivan Susanin) (1834–6); Ruslan and Lyudmila (1837–42).ORCH.: sym. in B♭ (c.1824); Valse fantaisie (1839–56); Capriccio brillante (1845); Kamarinskaya (1848); Night in Madrid (1848).CHAMBER MUSIC: str. qt. No.1 (1824), No.2 (1830); sextet for pf. and strs. (1832); Trio pathétique, pf., cl., bn. (1832). Also pf. and vocal works.

Glinka, Mikhail

views updated Jun 27 2018

Glinka, Mikhail (1804–57) Russian composer, the first Russian composer to receive international acclaim. His two operas, A Life for the Czar (1836) and Russlan and Ludmila (1841), inspired the Russian Five. Later in life, Glinka resided in Italy and Spain, writing songs and orchestral music.

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