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Gaigerova, Varvara Andrianovna (1903–1944)

Gaigerova, Varvara Andrianovna (1903–1944)

Russian composer, pianist and concertmaster who was interested in the musical heritage of the minority peoples of the Soviet Union, particularly in its southeastern regions. Born in Oryekhovo-Zuyevo, Russia, on October 4, 1903; died in Moscow on April 6, 1944; graduated from the Moscow Conservatory, 1927, where she studied piano and composition with the noted composer Nikolai Miaskovsky.

As a child prodigy, began her concert career in her early teens; served as concertmaster of the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra (1936–44).

The Bolshevik Revolution of November 1917 was a cataclysmic event in the lives of tens of millions not only in Russia but in the surrounding regions of the recently defunct Romanov Empire. In the musical world, the consequences were enormous. While many distinguished composers like Alexander Glazunov and Sergei Rachmaninoff fled the country for the West, others remained to preserve precious traditions and in some cases attempt to create a new, more socially conscious musical culture. For Soviet women musicians, considerable opportunities were opened by both the Communist ideology, which asserted the equality of the sexes, and the bitter realities of the day, which generated massive gaps in society because of loss of male lives in war, revolution, harsh industrialization and ruthless purges. Women of energy and talent were sometimes able to fill these gaps.

Varvara Gaigerova's abilities spanned the worlds of both performance and composition. An instrumentalist, she was concertmaster at the Bolshoi Theater, and she created over a period of two decades an impressive body of compositions reflecting the musical and political ideals of early Soviet society. Many of her works were inspired by the music of the less-developed nationalities of the Soviet Union. Among her compositions we find three symphonies, the second of which was based on Kalmuk themes. She also composed three orchestral suites for domra orchestra, utilizing the unique timbres of traditional instruments. One of her string quartets was inspired by Yakut themes, and a posthumously published piano sonatina derived its main themes from Buryat-Mongolian music. She also made many arrangements for Western instruments of traditional songs of the Bashkir, Buryat, Kazakh, Kirghiz, Tatar, Uzbek and other non-Russian peoples of the USSR. Gaigerova died in April 1944, during a trying period for Russia when the immense sacrifices of its people had not yet resulted in a final victory over Fascism.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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