Milij Balakirev

(Nizhny Novgorod 1837- St. Petersburg 1910)

Balakirev , the soul of the Group of Five (César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Alexander Borodin and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov), proposed freeing Russian music from western models and to seek national roots in folklore and Russian history.

The movement culminated with the founding of the Free School of Music in 1862. Because of his modest origins, he did not have the benefit of a traditional musical education (which he denied the validity of anyway) instead he was self-taught, but thanks to his marked musical talent he became a pianist, splendid improviser, orchestra director, and naturally composer. He had a great influence on music in Russia and on musicians like Rimsky-Korsakov and even Tchaikovsky.

Famous for taking a long time to finish his compositions (it took him almost 50 years to finish his Sonata in B flat minor), he nonetheless left a large number of works: songs, popular songs, two symphonies and two Symphonic poems (Russia and Tamara), a variety of pieces for piano among them, the famous, and from the point of view of technique very difficult, Islamey, Oriental Fantasy for Piano.

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