(October 9, 1874 – December 13, 1947) – known also as
Nikolai Konstantinovich Rerikh (Russian: Никола́й
Константи́нович Ре́рих) – was a Russian painter, writer,
archaeologist, theosophist, perceived by some in Russia
as an enlightener, philosopher, and public figure, who
in his youth was influenced by a movement in Russian
society around the occult. He was interested in hypnosis
and other spiritual practices and his paintings are said
to have hypnotic expression.
Born in Saint Petersburg,
Russia to the family of a well-to-do notary public, he lived
in various places around the world until his death in Naggar,
Himachal Pradesh, India. Trained as an artist and a lawyer,
his main interests were literature, philosophy, archaeology,
and especially art. Roerich was a dedicated activist for the
cause of preserving art and architecture during times of
war. He earned several nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize
long list. The so-called Roerich Pact was signed into law by
the United States and most nations of the Pan-American Union
during April 1935.
Raised in late 19th century St. Petersburg, Roerich
matriculated simultaneously at St. Petersburg
University and the Imperial Academy of Arts during
1893. He received the title of "artist" during 1897
and a degree in law the next year. He found early
employment with the Imperial Society for the
Encouragement of the Arts, whose school he directed
from 1906 to 1917.
Despite early tensions with the group, he became a
member of Sergei Diaghilev's "World of Art" society;
he was president of the society from 1910 to 1916.
became known as his generation's most talented
painter of Russia's ancient past, a topic that was
compatible with his lifelong interest in
archaeology. He also succeeded as a stage designer,
achieving his greatest fame as one of the designers
for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.
His best-known designs were for Borodin's Prince
Igor (1909 and later productions), and costumes and
set for The Rite of Spring (1913), composed by Igor
Roerich's passions was architecture. His acclaimed
publication "Architectural Studies" (1904–1905) –
the dozens of paintings he completed of fortresses,
monasteries, churches, and other monuments during
two long trips through Russia—- inspired his
decades-long career as an activist on behalf of
artistic and architectural preservation.
He also designed religious art
for places of worship throughout Russia and Ukraine: most
notably the Queen of Heaven fresco for the Church of the
Holy Spirit which the patroness Maria Tenisheva built near
her Talashkino estate; and the stained glass windows for the
Datsan Gunzechoinei during 1913–1915.
During the first decade of
the 1900s and in the early 1910s, Roerich, largely due to
the influence of his wife Helena, developed an interest in
eastern religions, as well as alternative (to Christianity)
belief systems such as Theosophy. Both Roerichs became avid
readers of the Vedantist essays of Ramakrishna and
Vivekananda, the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore, and the
Bhagavad Gita. The Roerichs' commitment to occult mysticism
increased steadily. It was especially intense during World
War I and the Russian revolutions of 1917, to which the
couple, like many Russian intellectuals, accorded
apocalyptic significance. The influence of Theosophy,
Vedanta, Buddhism, and other mystical topics can be detected
not only in many of his paintings, but in the many short
stories and poems Roerich wrote before and after the 1917
revolutions, including the Flowers of Morya cycle, begun
during 1907 and completed 1921.
Nicholas Roerich. 1916.
emigration, and the United States
After the February Revolution of 1917 and the end of
the czarist regime, Roerich, a political moderate
who valued Russia's cultural heritage more than
ideology and party politics, had an active part in
artistic politics. With Maxim Gorky and Aleksandr
Benois, he participated with the so-called "Gorky
Commission" and its successor organization, the Arts
Union (SDI). Both attempted to gain the attention of
the Provisional Government and Petrograd Soviet on
the need to form a coherent cultural policy and,
most urgently, protect art and architecture from
destruction and vandalism. At the same time,
however, illness forced Roerich to leave the capital
and reside in Karelia, the district bordering
Finland. He had already quit the presidency of the
World of Art society, and he now quit the
directorship of the School of the Imperial Society
for the Encouragement of the Arts. After the October
Revolution and the acquisition of power of Lenin's
Bolshevik Party, Roerich became increasingly
discouraged about Russia's political future. During
early 1918, he, Helena, and their two sons George
and Sviatoslav emigrated to Finland.
historical debates are associated with Roerich's
departure. First, it is often claimed that Roerich
was a major candidate to direct a people's
commissariat of culture (the Soviet equivalent of a
ministry of culture) which the Bolsheviks considered
establishing during 1917–1918, but that he refused
to accept the job. In fact, Benois was the most
likely choice to direct any such commissariat. It
seems that Roerich was a preferred choice to manage
its department of artistic education; the topic is
rendered moot by the fact that the Soviets elected
not to establish such a commissariat.
Second, when he wished to
reconcile with the USSR, Roerich maintained later that he
had not left Soviet Russia deliberately, but that he and his
family, living in Karelia (there he painted a series of
pictures under the name "Karelian Suite"), had been isolated
from their homeland when civil war began in Finland.
However, Roerich's extreme hostility to the Bolshevik regime
– prompted not so much by a dislike of communism as by his
revulsion at Lenin's ruthlessness and his fear that
Bolshevism would result in the destruction of Russia's
artistic and architectural heritage – was amply documented.
He illustrated Leonid Andreyev's anti-communist polemic "S.O.S."
and had a widely published pamphlet, "Violators of Art"
(1918–1919). Roerich believed that "the triumph of Russian
culture would come about through a new appreciation of
ancient myth and legend".
After some months in Finland
and Scandinavia, the Roerichs relocated to London, arriving
during mid-1919. Engrossed with Theosophical mysticism, the
Roerichs now had millenarian expectations that a new age was
imminent, and they wished to travel to India as soon as
possible. They joined the English-Welsh chapter of the
Theosophical Society. It was in London, during March 1920,
that the Roerichs initiated their own school of occultism,
Agni Yoga, which they referred to also as "the system of
living ethics." To earn passage to India, Roerich worked as
a stage designer for Thomas Beecham's Covent Garden Theatre,
but the enterprise ended unsuccessfully during 1920, and the
artist never received full payment for his work. Among the
notable people Roerich befriended while in England were the
famed British Buddhist Christmas Humphreys,
philosopher-author H. G. Wells, and the poet and Nobel
laureate Rabindranath Tagore (whose grand-niece Devika Rani
would later marry Roerich's son Sviatoslav).
Later, a successful
exhibition resulted in an invitation from a director at the
Art Institute of Chicago, offering to arrange for Roerich's
art to tour the United States. During the autumn of 1920,
the Roerichs traveled to America by sea.
The Roerichs remained in
the United States from October 1920 until May 1923. A large
exhibition of Roerich's art, organized partly by U.S.
impresario Christian Brinton and partly by the Chicago Art
Institute, began in New York during December 1920 and toured
the country, to San Francisco and back, during 1921 and
early 1922. Roerich befriended acclaimed soprano Mary Garden
of the Chicago Opera and received a commission to design a
1922 production of Rimsky-Korsakov's The Snow Maiden for
her. During the exhibition, the Roerichs spent significant
amounts of time in Chicago, New Mexico, and California.
They settled in New York
City, which became the base of their many American
operations. The Roerichs initiated several institutions
during these years: Cor Ardens and Corona Mundi, both of
which were meant to unite artists around the globe in the
cause of civic activism; the Master Institute of United
Arts, an art school with an exceptionally versatile
curriculum, and the eventual home of the first Nicholas
Roerich Museum; and an American Agni Yoga Society. They also
joined various theosophical societies, and their activities
with these groups dominated their lives.
Saint Panteleimon the Healer. 1916
After leaving New York, the Roerichs – together with
their son George and six friends – began the
five-year-long 'Roerich Asian Expedition' that, in
Roerich's own words: "started from Sikkim through
Punjab, Kashmir, Ladakh, the Karakoram Mountains,
Khotan, Kashgar, Qara Shar, Urumchi, Irtysh, the
Altai Mountains, the Oyrot region of Mongolia, the
Central Gobi, Kansu, Tsaidam, and Tibet" with a
detour through Siberia to Moscow during 1926.
Roerichs' Asian expedition attracted attention from
the foreign services and intelligence agencies of
the USSR, the United States, Great Britain, and
Japan. In fact, prior to this expedition, Roerich
himself solicited help of Soviet government and
Bolshevik secret police to assist him in his
expedition, promising in return to monitor British
activities in the area, but received only a lukewarm
response from Meer Trilisser, chief of the Soviet
foreign intelligence at that time. On the one hand,
the Bolsheviks assisted him with logistics when
Roerich was traveling through Siberia and Mongolia.
Yet, on the other hand, they refused to totally
commit themselves to his reckless utopian project of
the Sacred Union of the East – a spiritual utopia
that boiled down to Roerich ambitious attempts to
stir the Buddhist masses of inner Asia to create a
highly spiritual cooperative commonwealth under the
patronage of Bolshevik Russia. The official mission
of this expedition, as Roerich put it, was to act as
the embassy of Western Buddhism to Tibet. However,
for Western media his expedition was presented as an
artistic and scientific enterprise; Between the
summer of 1927 and June 1928 the expedition was
thought to be lost, since communication with them
ceased for a year. They had been attacked in Tibet
and only the "superiority of our firearms prevented
bloodshed... In spite of our having Tibet passports,
the expedition was forcibly stopped by Tibetan
authorities." The expedition was detained by the
government for five months, and forced to live in
tents in sub-zero conditions and to subsist on
meagre rations. Five men of the expedition died
during this time. During March 1928 they were
allowed to leave Tibet, and trekked south to settle
in India, where they initiated a research center,
the Himalayan Research Institute.
Nicholas Roerich was nominated for the Nobel Peace
Prize by the University of Paris. He received two
more nominations during 1932 and 1935. His concern
for peace resulted in his creation of the Pax
Cultura, the "Red Cross" of art and culture. His
work for this cause also resulted in the United
States and the twenty other nations of the
Pan-American Union signing the Roerich Pact on April
15, 1935 at the White House. The Roerich Pact is an
early international instrument protecting cultural
During 1934–1935, the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(then headed by Roerich admirer Henry A. Wallace)
sponsored an expedition by Roerich and USDA
scientists H. G. MacMillan and James F. Stephens to
Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, and China. The
expedition's purpose was to collect seeds of plants
which prevent the destruction of benign layers of
consisted of two parts. During 1934, they explored
the Greater Khingan mountains and Bargan plateau in
western Manchuria. During 1935, they explored parts
of Inner Mongolia: the Gobi Desert, Ordos, and Helan
Mountains. The expedition found almost 300 species
of xerophytes, collected herbs, conducted
archeological studies, and found antique manuscripts
of great scientific importance.
Later life and
World War II
Roerich was in India during the Second World War,
where he painted Russian epic heroic and saintly
themes, including: Alexander Nevsky, The Fight of
Mstislav and Rededia and Boris and Gleb.
Roerich received Jawaharlal Nehru at his house in
Kullu and Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi. Together
they discussed the fate of the new world: "We spoke
about Indian-Russian cultural association, – Roerich
wrote, – it is time to think about useful and
creative cooperation ...”.
Gandhi would later
recall about several days spent together with
Roerich's family: "That was a memorable visit to a
surprising and gifted family where each member was a
remarkable figure in himself, with a well-defined
range of interests." ..."Roerich himself stays in my
memory. He was a man with extensive knowledge and
enormous experience, a man with a big heart, deeply
influenced by all that he observed".
During the visit,
"ideas and thoughts about closer cooperation between
India and USSR were expressed. Now, after India wins
independence, they have got its own real
implementation[clarification needed]. And as you
know, there are friendly and mutually-understanding
relationships today between both our countries".
During 1942, the
American-Russian cultural Association (ARCA) was
created in New York. Its active participants were
Ernest Hemingway, Rockwell Kent, Charlie Chaplin,
Emil Cooper, Serge Koussevitzky, and Valeriy
Ivanovich Tereshchenko. The Association's activity
was welcomed by scientists like Robert Millikan and
Roerich died on
December 13, 1947.
Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Nicholas
and Mohammad Yunus. (Roerich's estate, Kullu).
Vice President of the United States Henry A. Wallace
was a frequent correspondent and sometime advocate
of Nicholas Roerich's teachings. Wallace became
attracted to the idea of Sacred Union of the East, a
spiritual and geopolitical utopia Nicholas and
Helena Roerich contemplated to establish in the
heart of Asia. Based on spiritual ideas, which the
Roerichs claimed they received from otherworld
masters, this utopia was to show the humankind a
blueprint of ideal society. As the US Secretary of
Agriculture, Wallace became so much interested in
the whole project that he decided to sponsor the
second Roerich expedition to Asia in 1933–1934. In
the meantime, Helena Roerich was corresponding with
US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was
intrigued by her "fiery letters." The whole project
ended in a disaster and resulted in energetic
efforts by Wallace and FDR to cut their ties with
the Roerichs. The whole incident later partially
resurfaced and became controversial when Wallace
campaigned for President during 1948 and portions of
the correspondence were printed by columnist
Westbrook Pegler, becoming known as the Guru
Presently, the Nicholas
Roerich Museum in New York City is a major institution for
Roerich's artistic work. Numerous Roerich societies continue
to promote his theosophical teachings worldwide. His
paintings can be seen in several museums including the
Roerich Department of the State Museum of Oriental Arts in
Moscow; the Roerich Museum at the International Centre of
the Roerichs in Moscow; the Russian State Museum in Saint
Petersburg, Russia; a collection in the Tretyakov Gallery in
Moscow; a collection in the Art Museum in Novosibirsk,
Russia; an important collection in the National Gallery for
Foreign Art in Sofia, Bulgaria; a collection in the Art
Museum in Nizhny Novgorod Russia; National Museum of Serbia
; the Roerich Hall Estate in Nagar village in Kullu Valley,
India; the Sree Chitra Art Gallery, Thiruvananthapuram,
India; in various art museums in India; and a selection
featuring several of his larger works in The Latvian
National Museum of Art.
Roerich's biography and his
controversial expeditions to Tibet and Manchuria have been
examined recently by a number of authors, including two
Russians, Vladimir Rosov and Alexandre Andreyev, American
(Andrei Znamenski), and the German Ernst von Waldenfels.
H.P. Lovecraft referred to
the "strange and disturbing paintings of Nicholas Roerich"
in his Antarctic horror story At the Mountains of Madness.
The minor planet 4426
Roerich in the Solar System was named in honor of Roerich.
During June 2013 during
Russian Art Week in London, Roerich's Madonna Laboris sold
at auction at Bonhams shop for £7,881,250 inc. buyer's
premium, making it the most valuable painting ever sold at a
Russian art auction.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Nicholas Roerich. Visitors from
over the sea. 1901
the first Impressionist exhibition are offered the freedom to
show whatever they choose, without the interference of a jury -
but the group of painters who have formed the Societe Anonyme
des Artistes are saddled with the sobriquet 'Impressionists' by
a facetious critic.
24th Berthe Morisot's father dies.
12th Edmond de Goncourt describes Degas in his, Journal
as 'a bizarre painter - a strange fellow, neurotic, sickly, with
bad eyesight - he's always frightened of going blind - so far the
most likely person I've met who can catch the essence of modern life
in describing it.'
15th Manet publishes Boy with Dog and
Boy with Dog
1868-74 One of two lithographs Manet published in February, Boy with
Dog is a faithful, even restrained, rendering of the painting of
the same title that dates from 1861.
16th Degas persuades Faure to buy back from Durand-Ruel six
paintings with which he is dissatisfied.
23rd Degas' father dies in Naples.
Dr Gachet urges Pissarro to organize a benefit auction of works by
various artists to help Daumier, who has become virtually blind.
12th Opening of the Salon.
Manet's The Railroad and Pulcinello, are
accepted; but his Masked Ball at the Opera and The Swallows
are rejected, provoking a remonstrative article by Mallarme in La
Renaissance litteraire et artistique.
Mary Gassatt's Ida is admired by Degas.
15th The first exhibition of the Societe Anonyme des Artistes
opens at 35 boulevard des Capucines.
25th Reviewing the exhibition, the critic Louis Leroy refers
to the artists as 'the Impressionists'.
Sisley stays in London and paints at Hampton Court and Molesey.
Monet Working on his Boat in Argenteuil
In the summer of 1874 Manet visited his family home in Gennevilliers,
near Argenteuil, where Monet was renting a house. One of the first
fruits of the excursion was this painting of Monet and his wife in
his studio boat (which had been constructed in imitation of the one
used by Daubigny). Despite being essentially a sketch, it shows the
increasing confidence with which Manet was starting to use
Impressionist techniques. little hint is given of the condition of
the river at the time, which according to a contemporary official
report, was choked with 'an accumulation of filth, putrefying dead
cats and dogs and slime'.
Durand-Ruel's Society of French Artists puts on an exhibition that
includes works by Manet, Monet, Pissarro and Sisley.
Manet spends the summer at his family home in Gennevilliers, whilst
Monet rents a house across the Seine at Argenteuil. Renoir often
visits them, and the three artists paint each other and their
families. Pissarro stays with the landscape painter Ludovic Piette
Van Gogh is transferred from London to Goupil's Paris headquarters.
3rd Van Gogh returns to London.
17th At a meeting in Renoir's studio, it is decided to wind
up the Societe Anonyme des Artistes because of lack of funds.
22nd Berthe Morisot marries Manet's brother Eugene. Renoir's
THE FIRST IMPRESSIONIST EXHIBITION
The first exhibition of the Societe
Anonyme des Artistes (Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs etc.) was held
at 35 boulevard des Capucines, in what had until recently been the
studios of Nadar, the photographer. A flight of stairs led directly
from the street to the rooms, the walls of which were covered in red
— a colour favoured by Nadar. Admission cost 1 franc, and the
catalogue (edited by Renoir's brother Edmond) 50 centimes. The
exhibition, which ran from April 15th till May 15th, was open not
only during the daytime but, as a gesture to the working classes,
from 8.00 to 10.00 in the evenings. Despite the significance of the
event for the history of art, the primary purpose of the
election of the committee of fifteen members. Originally the
Impressionists intended to publish a journal, but this ambition was
not realized until 1877. To cover expenses, a commission of 10 per
cent was levied on sales. Exhibits were to be grouped in
alphabetical order of artists' names, according to size, and hung no
more than two rows deep. The hanging was in the hands of a committee
chaired by Renoir, who did most of the work himself as other members
failed to turn up.
Cover of the catalogue of the first Impressionist exhibition.
There were 165 works in the exhibition, including five oil paintings
and seven pastels by Monet; four oils, two pastels and three water-colours
by Morisot; six oil paintings and one pastel by Renoir; ten works by
Degas; five by Pissarro; three by Cezanne; and three by Guillaumin.
Some of the pictures were on loan, including Cezanne's Modern
Olympia, Morisot's Hide and Seek (owned by
organizers was not so much to promote a new style Manet) and two
Sisley landscapes that had been of painting as to escape the
constraints of the Salon bought by Durand-Ruel. Works exhibited that
are and to give the artists an opportunity to show their work
freely, without the interference of a jury or any State involvement.
The society had been constituted as a 'societe anonyme' (a limited
liability company) open to anyone prepared to pay 60 francs a year.
Each artist was entitled to have two pictures hung — though this
rule was not adhered to. All members had equal rights and could
participate in the well known today included Degas' At the
Races in the
Country, Monet's Impression: Sunrise and his
Boulevard des Capucines, Morisot's The Cradle,
(painted in 1872) and Renoir's La Loge.
Boulevard des Capucines
1874 Painted shortly before the opening of the first Impressionist
exhibition, this urban view, Monet's most ambitious to date, was
highly criticized. Leroy's imaginary academician, M. Vincent, was
particularly outraged by Monet's depiction of the people, whom he
described as looking like 'black tongue-lickings'.
The majority of the participants were not connected with the
so-called Batignolles group and had been recruited by one or other
of the sixteen founding members, Degas being especially active in
this respect. Most of these 'outsiders' were regular exhibitors at
the Salon. Some of the subscribers to the society did not
There were 175 visitors on the first day of the exhibition and 54 on
the last, the total attendance being around 3500. Nor was the
exhibition disastrous from a selling point of view, although some
exhibitors had pitched their prices too high — Pissarro wanted 1000
francs for The Orchard and Monet asked the same for Impression: Sunrise, neither of which sold. Admittedly
Sisley sold a landscape for 1000 francs, but that may well have been
the result of a manoeuvre by Durand-Ruel.
1872-3 The painting which aroused the ire of M. Vincent and gave its
name to the group was originally entitled Sunrise at Le Havre.
According to Edmond Renoir it was he who suggested to Monet that the
title should be altered. It is thought that the work in fact
portrays a sunset, not a sunrise.
The sum that accrued to the society from the 10 per cent commission
on sales amounted to 360 francs, which implies that 3600 francs
worth of pictures were sold. It is known that Monet received a total
of 200 francs, Renoir 180 francs and Pissarro 130 francs, while
Cezanne got 300 francs for his
House of the Hanged Man. Although Renoir failed to
achieve the 500 francs he wanted for La Loge, later he
managed to sell it for 450 francs to Pere Martin, a small-time
dealer and loyal supporter of the group. Neither Morisot nor Boudin
sold anything, nor did Degas (most of his works, however, were
RENOIR La Loge
1874 This painting was one of the few in the first Impressionist
exhibition that was not received with hostility by the critics;
indeed, many praised it. The sitters were the artist's brother
Edmond and a model known as Nini.
The accounts showed that the expenses of the exhibition came to 9272
francs and the receipts 10,221 francs, leaving 949 francs profit, to
which were notionally added 2360 francs due in unpaid shares. As a
commercial venture it was a failure: the amount the members received
was not even sufficient to cover their dues, and Cezanne had to ask
his father for money to pay what he owed.
House of the Hanged Man
1873 Painted while he was staying with Dr Gachet in Auvers-sur-Oise,
this was one of three works shown by Cezanne at the first
Impressionist exhibition. It was purchased by Count Armand Doria, an
avid collector of Impressionist paintings, for 300 francs.
CRITICAL REACTIONS TO THE FIRST
The exhibition received wide coverage
in the press, and many of the reviewers reacted favourably.
Nevertheless, there was no shortage of hostile reviews. The most
notorious of these was Louis Leroy's piece headed 'The Exhibition of
the Impressionists', published in the satirical magazine Le
Charivari, which was responsible for the name 'Impressionist'
catching on. In his review (part of which is reproduced below) Leroy
described a visit to the exhibition with an imaginary companion, M.
Vincent - a distinguished academician who ceaselessly poured scorn
on the artists' efforts, deriding the 'impressions' that they were
striving to achieve. As a final gibe, Leroy pictured M. Vincent
standing in front of a fictitious attendant, yelling exasperatedly:
'Is he ugly enough?
From the front he has two eyes, a nose and a mouth. The
Impressionists wouldn't have sacrificed to detail in this way!'
At the sight of
this astounding landscape [Pissarro's The Ploughed Field], the good
man [M. Vincent] thought that his spectacles were dirty, and wiping
them carefully set them on his nose. 'Good God,' he said, 'What on
earth is that? 'It's a hoarfrost on deeply ploughed furrows,' I
replied. 'Those things furrows? That stuff frost? They look more
like palette scrapings placed uniformly on a dirty canvas. It has
neither head nor tail, top nor bottom, front nor back.' 'Perhaps,
but the impression is there.' 'Well, it's a damned funny
...A little later he stopped in front of Monet's 'Impression:
Sunrise'. His countenance was turning a deep red. A catastrophe
seemed to me imminent, and it was reserved for M. Monet to
contribute the last straw. 'Ah, there he is; there he is!' he
shouted in front of Mo. 98, 7 recognize him; Papa Vincent's
favourite! What does the canvas depict? Look at the catalogue,
"Impression: Sunrise". I was certain of it! I was just telling
myself that since I was impressed there had to be some impression in
it... and what freedom; what ease of workmanship! Wallpaper in its
embryonic state is more finished than that seascape.'
LOUIS LEROY, Le Charivari, April 25th
1872 One of the few successes of the first Impressionist exhibition,
The Cradle appealed as much by virtue of its subject matter as by
its style. What is essentially a portrait of Morisot's sister, Edma
PontiUon, looking at her newly-born second child, can also be seen
as being somewhat in the tradition of nineteenth-century sentimental
M. Manet is among those who maintain that in painting one can, and
ought to be, satisfied with the impression. We have seen an
exhibition by these impressionalists on the boulevard des Capucines,
at Nadar's. M. Monet, a more uncompromising Manet, Pissarro, Mile
Morisot etc. appear to have declared war on beauty.
JULES CLARETIE, L'lndependant, April 20th
Berthe Morisot has
wit to the tips of her fingers, especially at her fingertips. What
fine artistic feeling! You cannot find more graceful images handled
more deliberately and delicately than 'The Cradle' and 'Hide and
Seek'. I would add that here the execution is in complete accord
with the idea to be expressed.
JULES CASTAGNARY, Le Siecle, April 29th
What pleases us is the initiative taken by these artists, who
without recriminations, protests or polemics, opened a room and said
to the crowds: 'We see like this, we understand art in this way.
Come on in, look, and buy if you like.'
EDOUARD DRUMONT, Le Petit Journal, April 19th
Thе means by which they search for their impressions will infinitely
serve contemporary art. It is the range of painting's means that
they have restored. And don't believe that this makes the palette a
banal percussion instrument, as one might initially think. You need
special eyes to be sensitive to
the subtlety of their tonal relations, which constitutes their
honour and their merit.
ARMAND SILVESTRE, L'Opinion nationale, April 22nd
Looking at the first rough works - and rough is the right word -you
simply shrug your shoulders; seeing the next lot, you burst out
laughing; but with the last ones you finally get angry. And you are
sorry you did not give the franc you paid to get in to some poor
UNSIGNED REVIEW, La Patrie, April 21st
At the Races in the Country
1869 While he was staying with his friends the Valpincons at Menil-Hubert,
Degas painted the racecourse at nearby Argentan. Paul Valpincon is
depicted driving the tilbury, with his wife, recently-born son and a
nurse seated behind him. The critic Ernest Chesneau praised the work
when it was shown at the first Impressionist exhibition.
Franz Schmidt (22 December 1874
– 11 February 1939) was an Austrian composer, cellist and
Schmidt was born in Pozsony (known in German as
Pressburg), in the Hungarian part of the
Austro-Hungarian Empire (the city is now Bratislava,
capital of Slovakia). His father was half Hungarian
and his mother entirely Hungarian. He was a Roman
Catholic. His earliest teacher was his mother, Mária
Ravasz, an accomplished pianist, who gave him a
systematic instruction in the keyboard works of J.
S. Bach. He received a thorough foundation in theory
from Brother Felizian Moczik, the outstanding
organist at the Franciscan church in Pressburg. He
studied piano briefly with Theodor Leschetizky, with
whom he clashed. He moved to Vienna with his family
in 1888, and studied at the Vienna Conservatory
(composition with Robert Fuchs, cello with Ferdinand
Hellmesberger and theory (the counterpoint class)
with Anton Bruckner), graduating "with excellence"
He beat 13 other
applicants and obtained a post as cellist with the
Vienna Court Opera Orchestra, where he played until
1914, often under Gustav Mahler. Mahler habitually
had Schmidt play all the cello solos, even though
Friedrich Buxbaum was the principal cellist. Schmidt
was also in demand as a chamber musician. Schmidt
and Arnold Schoenberg maintained cordial relations
despite their vast differences in style. Also a
brilliant pianist, in 1914 Schmidt took up a
professorship in piano at the Vienna Conservatory,
which had been recently renamed Imperial Academy of
Music and the Performing Arts. (Apparently, when
asked who the greatest living pianist was, Leopold
Godowsky replied, "The other one is Franz Schmidt.")
In 1925 he became Director of the
Academy, and from 1927 to 1931 its Rector.
As teacher of piano, cello and counterpoint and composition at the
Academy, Schmidt trained numerous musicians, conductors and
composers who later achieved fame. Among his best-known students
were the pianist Friedrich Wührer and Alfred Rosé (son of Arnold
Rosé, the legendary founder of the Rosé Quartet, Konzertmeister of
the Vienna Philharmonic and brother-in-law of Gustav Mahler). Among
the composers were Theodor Berger, Marcel Rubin and Alfred Uhl. He
received many tokens of the high esteem in which he was held,
notably the Franz-Josef Order, and an Honorary Doctorate from the
University of Vienna.
Schmidt's private life was in stark contrast to the success of his
distinguished professional career, and was overshadowed by tragedy.
His first wife was, from 1919, confined in the Vienna mental
hospital Am Steinhof, and three years after his death was murdered
under the Nazi euthanasia program. His daughter Emma died
unexpectedly after the birth of her first child.
Schmidt experienced a
spiritual and physical breakdown after this, but
achieved an artistic revival and resolution in his
Fourth Symphony of 1933 (which he inscribed as
"Requiem for my Daughter") and, especially, in his
oratorio The Book With Seven Seals. His second
marriage, to a successful young piano student, for
the first time brought some desperately needed
stability into the private life of the artist, who
was plagued by many serious health problems.
Schmidt's worsening health forced his retirement
from the Academy in early 1937. In the last year of
his life Austria was brought into the German Reich
by the Anschluss, and Schmidt was fêted by the Nazi
authorities as the greatest living composer of the
so-called Ostmark. He was given a commission to
write a cantata entitled "The German Resurrection",
which, after 1945, was taken by many as a reason to
brand him as having been tainted by Nazi sympathy.
However, Schmidt left this composition unfinished,
and in the summer and autumn of 1938, a few months
before his death, set it aside to devote himself to
two other commissioned works for the one-armed
pianist Paul Wittgenstein, for whom he had often
composed: the Clarinet Quintet in A major and the
solo Toccata in D minor. Schmidt died on 11 February
As a composer, Schmidt was slow to develop, but his
reputation, at least in Austria, saw a steady growth
from the late 1890s until his death in 1939. In his
music, Schmidt continued to develop the Viennese
classic-romantic traditions he inherited from
Schubert, Brahms and his own master, Bruckner. He
also takes forward the exotic ‘gypsy’ style of Liszt
and Brahms. His works are monumental in form and
firmly tonal in language, though quite often
innovative in their designs and clearly open to some
of the new developments in musical syntax initiated
by Mahler and Schoenberg. Although Schmidt did not
write a lot of chamber music, what he did write, in
the opinion of such critics as Wilhelm Altmann, was
important and of high quality. Although Schmidt's
organ works may resemble others of the era in terms
of length, complexity, and difficulty, they are
forward-looking in being conceived for the smaller,
clearer, classical-style instruments of the
Orgelbewegung, which he advocated. Schmidt worked
mainly in large forms, including four symphonies
(1899, 1913, 1928 and 1933) and two operas: Notre
Dame (1904-6) and Fredigundis (1916–21). A CD
recording of Notre Dame has been available for many
years, starring Dame Gwyneth Jones and James King.
Arnold Schoenberg, in full
Arnold Franz Walter Schoenberg, Schoenberg also spelled
Schönberg (born September 13, 1874, Vienna, Austria—died
July 13, 1951, Los Angeles, California, U.S.),
Austrian-American composer who created new methods of
musical composition involving atonality, namely serialism
and the 12-tone row. He was also one of the most-influential
teachers of the 20th century; among his most-significant
pupils were Alban Berg and Anton Webern.
Arnold Schoenberg, 1927, by Man Ray
Schoenberg’s father, Samuel, owned a small shoe shop in the
Second, then predominantly Jewish, district, of Vienna.
Neither Samuel nor his wife, Pauline (née Nachod), was
particularly musical, although, like most Austrians of their
generation, they enjoyed music. There were, however, two
professional singers in the family—Heinrich Schoenberg, the
composer’s brother, and Hans Nachod, his cousin. Nachod, a
gifted tenor, was the first to sing the role of Waldemar in
Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder (first performed 1900–01).
Before he was nine years
old, Schoenberg had begun composing little pieces for two
violins, which he played with his teacher or with a cousin.
A little later, when he acquired a viola-playing classmate,
he advanced to the writing of string trios for two violins
and viola. His meeting with Austrian musician and physician
Oskar Adler (later the famed astrologer and author of The
Testament of Astrology) was a decisive one. Adler encouraged
him to learn the cello so that a group of friends could play
string quartets. Schoenberg promptly began composing
quartets, although he had to wait for the “S” volume of
Meyers Grosses Konversations-Lexikon (an encyclopaedia that
his family was buying on the installment plan) to find out
how to construct the sonata-form first movement of such
Schoenberg’s father died in
1890. To help the family finances, the young man worked as a
bank clerk until 1895.
During that time he came to know
Alexander von Zemlinsky, a rising young composer and conductor of
the amateur orchestra Polyhymnia in which Schoenberg played cello.
The two became close friends, and Zemlinsky gave Schoenberg
instruction in harmony, counterpoint, and composition. That resulted
in Schoenberg’s first publicly performed work, the String Quartet in
D Major (1897). Highly influenced by the style of Johannes Brahms,
the quartet was well received by Viennese audiences during the
1897–98 and 1898–99 concert seasons.
Drawing of Schoenberg by Egon Schiele, 1917
First major works
A great step forward took place in 1899, when Schoenberg
composed the string sextet Verklärte Nacht (“Transfigured
Night”), a highly romantic piece of program music (unified
by a nonmusical story or image). It was based on a poem of
the same name by Richard Dehmel and was the first piece of
program music written for such an ensemble.
nature and its harmonies outraged conservative program
committees. Consequently, it was not performed until 1903,
when it was violently rejected by the public. Since then it
has become one of Schoenberg’s most-popular compositions,
both in its original form and in Schoenberg’s later versions
for string orchestra.
In 1901 Schoenberg moved to
Berlin, hoping to better his financial position. He married
Mathilde von Zemlinsky, his friend’s sister, and began
working as musical director at the Überbrettl, an intimate
artistic cabaret. He wrote many songs for that group, among
them, Nachtwandler (“Sleepwalker”) for soprano, piccolo,
trumpet, snare drum, and piano (published 1969). Schoenberg
found his position at Überbrettl insufficiently rewarding,
both artistically and materially.
German composer Richard
Strauss helped him to get a job as composition teacher at
the Stern Conservatory and used his influence to secure him
the Liszt stipend awarded by the Society for German Music.
With the encouragement of Strauss, Schoenberg composed his
only symphonic poem for large orchestra, Pelleas und
Melisande (1902–03), after the drama by Belgian writer
Maurice Maeterlinck. Back in Vienna in 1903, Schoenberg
became acquainted with the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler,
who became one of his strongest supporters.
Schoenberg’s next major
work was the String Quartet No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 7 (1904).
The composition’s high density of musical texture and its
unusual form (the conventional four movements of a “classic”
string quartet blended into one vast structure played
without interruption for nearly 50 minutes) caused
difficulties in comprehension at the work’s premiere in
1907. He used a similar form in the more-concise Chamber
Symphony in E Major (1906), a work novel in its choice of
instrumental ensemble. Turning away from the “monster”
post-Romantic orchestra, Schoenberg wrote for a chamberlike
group of 15 instruments.
During those years,
Schoenberg’s activity as a teacher became increasingly
important. The young Austrian composers Alban Berg and Anton
Webern began studying with him in 1904; both gained from him
the impetus to their notable careers, and Schoenberg, in
turn, benefitted greatly from the intellectual stimulation
of his loyal disciples. He stated at the beginning of his
Harmonielehre (1911; “Theory of Harmony”), “This book I have
learned from my pupils.” His great gifts as teacher are
manifest in that work as well as in his textbooks—Models for
Beginners in Composition (1942), Structural Functions of
Harmony (1954), Preliminary Exercises in Counterpoint
(1963), and Fundamentals of Musical Composition (1967).
Drawing of Schoenberg by Egon Schiele, 1917
Evolution from tonality
Until that period all of Schoenberg’s works had been
strictly tonal; that is, each of them had been in a specific
key, centred upon a specific tone. However, as his harmonies
and melodies became more complex, tonality became of lesser
importance. The process of “transcending” tonality can be
observed at the beginning of the last movement of his Second
String Quartet (1907–08). That work is innovative in another
respect, too: it is the first string quartet to include a
vocal part. The opening words of the Finale, “Ich fühle Luft
von anderen Planeten” (“I feel air from another planet”), by
the poet Stefan George, have often been symbolically
interpreted in the light of Schoenberg’s breakthrough to a
new world of sound.
On February 19, 1909,
Schoenberg finished the first of three piano pieces that
constitute his opus 11, the first composition ever to
dispense completely with “tonal” means of organization. Such
pieces, in which no one tonal centre exists and in which any
harmonic or melodic combination of tones may be sounded
without restrictions of any kind, are usually called atonal,
although Schoenberg preferred “pantonal.”
Atonal instrumental compositions are usually quite short; in
longer vocal compositions, the text serves as a means of
unification. Schoenberg’s most-important atonal compositions
include Five Orchestral Pieces, Op. 16 (1909); the monodrama Erwartung, Op. 17 (1924; “Expectation”), a stage work for
soprano and orchestra; Pierrot Lunaire, 21 recitations
(“melodramas”) with chamber accompaniment, Op. 21 (1912);
Die glückliche Hand, Op. 18 (1924; “The Hand of Fate”),
drama with music; and the unfinished oratorio Die
Jakobsleiter (begun 1917; “Jacob’s Ladder”).
Schoenberg’s earlier music
was by that time beginning to find recognition. On February
23, 1913, his Gurrelieder (begun in 1900) was first
performed in Vienna. The gigantic cantata calls for
unusually large vocal and orchestral forces. Along with
Mahler’s Eighth Symphony (Symphony of a Thousand), the
Gurrelieder represents the peak of the post-Romantic
monumental style. Gurrelieder was received with wild
enthusiasm by the audience, but the embittered Schoenberg
could no longer appreciate or acknowledge their response.
In 1911, unable to make a
decent living in Vienna, he had moved to Berlin. He remained
there until 1915, when, because of wartime emergency, he had
to report to Vienna for military service. He spent brief
periods in the Austrian Army in 1916 and 1917, until he was
finally discharged on medical grounds. During the war years
he did little composing, partly because of the demands of
army service and partly because he was meditating on how to
solve the vast structural problems that had been caused by
his move away from tonality. He wanted to find a new
principle of unification that would help him to control the
rich harmonic and melodic resources now at his disposal.
Near the end of July 1921, Schoenberg told a pupil, “Today I
have discovered something which will assure the supremacy of
German music for the next 100 years.” That “something” was a
method of composition with 12 tones related only to one
another. Schoenberg had just begun working on his Piano
Suite, Op. 25, the first 12-tone piece.
Arnold Schoenberg, Los Angeles, 1948
In the 12-tone method, each
composition is formed from a special row or series of 12
different tones. That row may be played in its original
form, inverted (played upside down), played backward, or
played backward and inverted. It may also be transposed up
or down to any pitch level. All of it, or any part of it,
may be sounded successively as a melody or simultaneously as
a harmony. In fact, all harmonies and melodies in the piece
must be drawn from that row. Although such a method might
seem extremely restrictive, that did not prove to be the
case. Using his technique, Schoenberg composed what many
consider to be his greatest work, the opera Moses und Aron
(begun in 1930).
For the rest of his life,
Schoenberg continued to use the 12-tone method. Occasionally
he returned to traditional tonality, for, as he liked to
say, “There is still much good music to be written in C
major.” Among those later tonal works are the Suite for
String Orchestra (1934), the Variations on a Recitative for
Organ, Op. 40 (1940), and the Theme and Variations for Band,
Op. 43A (1943).
After World War I
Schoenberg’s music won increasing acclaim, although his
invention of the 12-tone method aroused considerable
opposition. In 1923 his wife, Mathilde, died after a long
illness, and a year later he married Gertrud Kolisch, the
sister of the violinist Rudolf Kolisch.
His success as a teacher
continued to grow. In 1925 he was invited to direct the
master class in musical composition at the Prussian Academy
of Arts in Berlin.
It seemed that Schoenberg
had reached the peak of his career. His teaching was well
received, and he was writing important works: the Third
String Quartet, Op. 30 (1927); the opera Von Heute auf
Morgen, Op. 32 (1928–29, first performed in 1930; “From
Today to Tomorrow”); Begleitmusik zu einer Lichtspielszene,
Op. 34 (1929–30; “Accompaniment to a Film Scene”). But
political events proved his undoing. The rise of National
Socialism in Germany in 1933 led to the extirpation of
Jewish influence in all spheres of German cultural life.
Schoenberg was dismissed from his post at the academy. He
immigrated to the United States via Paris, where he formally
returned to the Jewish faith, which he had abandoned in his
youth. In November 1933 he took a position at the Malkin
Conservatory in Boston, and in 1934 he moved to California,
where he spent the remainder of his life, becoming a citizen
of the United States in 1941. He held major teaching
positions at the University of Southern California (1935–36)
and at the University of California at Los Angeles
Schoenberg's grave in the Zentralfriedhof, Vienna
Schoenberg’s major American
works show ever-increasing mastery and freedom in the
handling of the 12-tone method. Some of the outstanding
compositions of his American period are the Violin Concerto,
Op. 36 (1934–36); the Fourth String Quartet, Op. 37 (1936);
the Piano Concerto, Op. 42 (1942); and the Fantasia for
violin with piano accompaniment, Op. 47 (1949). He also
wrote a number of works of particular Jewish interest,
including Kol Nidre for mixed chorus, speaker, and
orchestra, Op. 39 (1938)—the Kol Nidre is a prayer sung in
synagogues at the beginning of the service on the eve of Yom
Kippur (Day of Atonement)—and the Prelude to the “Genesis
Suite” for orchestra and mixed chorus, Op. 44 (1945).
On July 2, 1951, Hermann
Scherchen, the eminent conductor of 20th-century music,
conducted the “Dance Around the Gold Calf” from Moses und
Aron at Darmstadt, then in West Germany, as part of the
program of the Summer School for New Music. The telegram
telling of the great success of that performance was one of
the last things to bring Schoenberg pleasure before his
death 11 days later.
Gustav Holst, original name
Gustavus Theodore Von Holst (born Sept. 21, 1874,
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, Eng.—died May 25, 1934,
London), English composer and music teacher noted for the
excellence of his orchestration. His music combines an
international flavour based on the styles of Maurice Ravel,
Igor Stravinsky, and others with a continuation of English
The son of a Swedish father
and English mother, Holst studied at the Royal College of
Music in London. His solo instrument was the trombone, and
for some years after leaving the college he made his living
as a trombone player in the Carl Rosa Opera Company and in
various orchestras. He became music master at St. Paul’s
Girls’ School in 1905 and director of music at Morley
College in 1907. These were the most important of his
teaching posts, and he retained both of them until the end
of his life.
Holst’s pioneering methods,
which entailed a rediscovery of the English vocal and choral
tradition (folk song, madrigals, and church music), were
influential in musical education in many English schools.
Many of Holst’s smaller choral works, folk-song
arrangements, and instrumental pieces (e.g., the St. Paul’s
Suite for strings ) reflect the musical interests he
sought to promote as a teacher. In this activity he shared
much common ground with Ralph Vaughan Williams, his friend
and contemporary. Holst’s stubbornly independent, exploring
mind had need, however, of a musical language less limited
and more flexible than that offered by the English folk-song
school. He found fresh creative stimuli in the new European
music (e.g., the innovations of Stravinsky), whose impact
Holst registered in his orchestral suite The Planets (1918);
and also in Hindu literature, which gave rise to his
“Sanskrit” period (1908–12), during which he composed the
opera Savitri and four sets of choral hymns from the Ṛigveda.
The cosmopolitanism of Holst’s style, rare in English music
of his period, lends him a special historical significance.
In such works as Egdon Heath for orchestra (1927), the
Choral Fantasia (1930), and the Fugal Concerto for flute,
oboe, and string orchestra (1923), he anticipated many
trends associated with later English composers who were to
turn away from the self-consciously national style bred by
the folk-song revival.
Holst’s works include the
opera Sita, composed during 1899–1906; The Hymn of Jesus,
for chorus and orchestra (1917); Ode to Death, for chorus
and orchestra (1919); The Perfect Fool, an opera (1923);
Choral Symphony (1923–24); the opera At the Boar’s Head
(1925); Double Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra
(1929); and Hammersmith, for orchestra (1930).
Charles Ives, (born Oct. 20,
1874, Danbury, Conn., U.S.—died May 19, 1954, New York
City), significant American composer who is known for a
number of innovations that anticipated most of the later
musical developments of the 20th century.
Ives received his earliest
musical instruction from his father, who was a bandleader,
music teacher, and acoustician who experimented with the
sound of quarter tones. At 12 Charles played organ in a
local church, and two years later his first composition was
played by the town band. In 1893 or 1894 he composed “Song
for the Harvest Season,” in which the four parts—for voice,
trumpet, violin, and organ—were in different keys. That year
he began studying at Yale University under Horatio Parker,
then the foremost academic composer in the United States.
His unconventionality disconcerted Parker, for whom Ives
eventually turned out a series of “correct” compositions.
After graduation in 1898,
Ives became an insurance clerk and part-time organist in New
York City. In 1907 he founded the highly successful
insurance partnership of Ives & Myrick, which he headed from
1916 to 1930. He devised the insurance concept of estate
planning and considered his years in business a valuable
human experience that contributed to the substance of his
music. Nearly all his works were written before 1915; many
lay unpublished until his death. Chronic diabetes and a hand
tremor eventually forced him to give up composing and to
retire from business. His music became widely known only in
the last years of his life. In 1947 he received the Pulitzer
Prize for his Third Symphony (The Camp Meeting; composed
1904–11). His Second Symphony (1897–1902) was first
performed in its entirety 50 years after its composition.
Ives’s music is intimately
related to American culture and experience, especially that
of New England. His compositions—with integrated quotations
from popular tunes, revival hymns, barn dances, and
classical European music—are frequently works of enormous
complexity that freely employ sharp dissonance, polytonal
harmonies, and polymetric constructions. He drew from
European music what techniques he wished while experimenting
with tone clusters, microtonal intervals, and elements of
chance in music (in one bassoon part he directs the player
to play whatever he wants beyond a specific point).
Believing that all sound is potential music, he was somewhat
of an iconoclast and occasionally a parodist.
In The Unanswered Question
(composed before 1908), a string quartet or string orchestra
repeats simple harmonies; placed apart from them, a trumpet
reiterates a question-like theme that is dissonantly and
confusedly commented upon by flutes (optionally with an oboe
or a clarinet). In the second movement of Three Places in
New England (also titled First Orchestral Set and A New
England Symphony; 1903–14), the music gives the effect of
two bands approaching and passing each other, each playing
its own melody in its own key, tempo, and rhythm. His
monumental Second Piano Sonata (subtitled Concord, Mass.,
1840–60), which was written from 1909 to 1915 and first
performed in 1938, echoes the spirit of the New England
Transcendentalists in its four sections, “Emerson,”
“Hawthorne,” “The Alcotts,” and “Thoreau.” It contains tone
clusters, quotes Beethoven, and includes a flute obbligato
honouring Thoreau’s wish to hear a flute over Walden. The
mood of the sonata ranges from wild and dissonant to idyllic
and mystical. It was published in 1920, together with Ives’s
pamphlet Essays Before a Sonata.
Ives conceived his Second
String Quartet (1911–13; composition on second movement
begun 1907) as a conversation, political argument, and
reconciliation among four men; it is full of quotations from
hymns, marches, and Beethoven, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky. His
Variations on America (1891; additions before 1894) is the
earliest polytonal piece known. In one of his piano and
violin sonatas, he adds a passage for trumpet. His 114 Songs
(1919–24) for voice and piano vary from ballads to satire,
hymns, protest songs, and romantic songs. In technique they
range from highly complex (e.g., with tone clusters,
polytonality, and atonality) to straightforward and simple.
Other compositions include
Central Park in the Dark (1906), for chamber orchestra;
General William Booth Enters into Heaven (1914; to Vachel
Lindsay’s poem), for soloist or choir and band but also
performed in arrangements for chamber orchestra and for
voice and piano; and the four-part symphony A Symphony: New
England Holidays (“Washington’s Birthday,” 1909, rescored
1913; “Decoration Day,” 1912; “Fourth of July,” 1912–13; and
“Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day,” 1904). The Ives
manuscripts were given to the Library of the Yale School of
Music by his wife, Harmony Ives, in 1955, and a temporary
mimeographed catalog was compiled from 1954 to 1960 by
pianist John Kirkpatrick.
The Symphony No. 3, S. 3 (K. 1A3), The Camp Meeting by Charles Ives
was written between 1908 and 1910. In 1947, the symphony was awarded
the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Ives is reported to have given half
the money to Lou Harrison, who conducted the premiere.
(Russian: Борис Годунов, Borís Godunóv) is an opera by
(1839–1881). The work was composed between 1868 and 1873
in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It is Mussorgsky's only
completed opera and is considered his masterpiece. Its
subjects are the Russian ruler Boris Godunov, who
reigned as Tsar (1598 to 1605) during the Time of
Troubles, and his nemesis, the False Dmitriy (reigned
1605 to 1606). The Russian-language libretto was written
by the composer, and is based on the drama Boris Godunov
by Aleksandr Pushkin, and, in the Revised Version of
1872, on Nikolay Karamzin's History of the Russian
Boris Godunov, among major operas,
shares with Giuseppe Verdi's Don Carlos (1867) the distinction of
having the most complex creative history and the greatest wealth of
alternative material. The composer created two versions—the Original
Version of 1869, which was rejected for production by the Imperial
Theatres, and the Revised Version of 1872, which received its first
performance in 1874 in Saint Petersburg. These versions constitute
two distinct ideological conceptions, not two variations of a single
Boris Godunov has
seldom been performed in either of the two forms left by the
composer, frequently being subjected to cuts, recomposition,
re-orchestration, transposition of scenes, or conflation of the
original and revised versions.
Several composers, chief among them
Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov and Dmitriy Shostakovich, have created new
editions of the opera to "correct" perceived technical weaknesses in
the composer's original scores. Although these versions held the
stage for decades, Mussorgsky's individual harmonic style and
orchestration are now valued for their originality, and revisions by
other hands have fallen out of fashion.
Boris Godunov comes closer to the
status of a repertory piece than any other Russian opera, even
Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, and is the most recorded Russian opera.
History By the
close of 1868, Mussorgsky had already started and
abandoned two important opera projects—the antique,
exotic, romantic tragedy Salammbô, written under the
influence of Aleksandr Serov's Judith, and the
contemporary, Russian, anti-romantic farce Marriage,
influenced by Aleksandr Dargomïzhsky's The Stone
Mussorgsky's next project would be a very original
and successful synthesis of the opposing styles of
these two experiments—the romantic-lyrical style of
Salammbô, and the realistic style of Marriage .
In the autumn of 1868,
Vladimir Nikolsky, a professor of Russian history
and language, and an authority on Pushkin, suggested
to Mussorgsky the idea of composing an opera on the
subject of Pushkin's "dramatic chronicle" Boris
Boris the play, modelled on Shakespeare's histories,
was written in 1825 and published in 1831, but was
not approved for performance by the state censors
until 1866, almost 30 years after the author's
death. Production was permitted on condition that
certain scenes were cut.
Although enthusiasm for the work was high,
Mussorgsky faced a seemingly insurmountable obstacle
to his plans in that an Imperial ukaz of 1837
forbade the portrayal in opera of Russian Tsars
(amended in 1872 to include only Romanov Tsars).
Shalyapin as Boris (1898)
When Lyudmila Shestakova, the sister of Mikhail Glinka, learned of
Mussorgsky's plans, she presented him with a volume of Pushkin's
dramatic works, interleaved with blank pages and bound, and using
this, Mussorgsky began work in October 1868 preparing his own
libretto. Pushkin's drama consists of 25 scenes, written
predominantly in blank verse. Mussorgsky adapted the most
theatrically effective scenes, mainly those featuring the title
character, along with a few other key scenes (Novodevichy, Cell,
Inn), often preserving Pushkin's verses.
Mussorgsky worked rapidly, composing
first the vocal score in about nine months (finished 18 July 1869),
and completed the full score five months later (15 December 1869),
at the same time working as a civil servant. In 1870, he submitted
the libretto to the state censor for examination, and the score to
the literary and music committees of the Imperial Theatres. However,
the opera was rejected (10 February 1871) by a vote of 6 to 1,
ostensibly for its lack of an important female role.
Lyudmila Shestakova recalled
the reply made by conductor Eduard Nápravník and stage manager
Gennadiy Kondratyev of the Mariinsky Theatre in response to her
question of whether Boris had been accepted for production:
"'No,' they answered me,
'it's impossible. How can there be an opera without the feminine
element?! Mussorgsky has great talent beyond doubt. Let him add
one more scene. Then Boris will be produced!'"
— Lyudmila Shestakova, in My
Evenings, her recollections of Mussorgsky and The Mighty
Other questionable accounts, such as Rimsky-Korsakov's, allege
that there were additional reasons for rejection, such as the
"...Mussorgsky submitted his
completed Boris Godunov to the Board of Directors of the
Imperial Theatres ... The freshness and originality of the music
nonplussed the honorable members of the committee, who reproved
the composer, among other things, for the absence of a
reasonably important female role."
— Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov,
Chronicle of My Musical Life, 1909
"All his closest friends, including myself, although moved to
enthusiasm by the superb dramatic power and genuinely national
character of the work, had constantly been pointing out to him
that it lacked many essentials; and that despite the beauties
with which it teemed, it might be found unsatisfactory in
certain respects. For a long time he stood up (as every genuine
artist is wont to do) for his creation, the fruit of his
inspiration and meditations. He yielded only after Boris had
been rejected, the management finding that it contained too many
choruses and ensembles, whereas individual characters had too
little to do. This rejection proved very beneficial to Boris."
— Vladimir Stasov
Meanwhile, Pushkin's drama (18 of the published 24 scenes,
condensed into 16) finally received its first performance in
1870 at the Mariinsky Theatre, three years in advance of the
premiere of the opera in the same venue, using the same scene
designs by Matvey Shishkov that would be recycled in the opera.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Nicolai Ghiaurov - Boris Godunov - Boris' Death Scene
The original source for Die Fledermaus is Das
Gefängnis (The Prison), a farce by German playwright
Julius Roderich Benedix (1811–1873).
Another source is the French vaudeville play Le
réveillon, by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy,
which was first translated by Karl Haffner into a
non-musical play to be produced in Vienna.
However, the peculiarly French custom of the
réveillon (a New Year's Eve supper party) caused
problems, which were solved by the decision to adapt
the play as a libretto for Johann Strauss, with the
réveillon replaced by a Viennese ball.
At this point Haffner's translation was handed over
for adaptation to Richard Genée, who subsequently
claimed not only that he had made a fresh
translation from scratch but that he had never even
The operetta premièred on 5 April 1874 at the
Theater an der Wien in Vienna and has been part of
the regular repertoire ever since:
It was performed in
New York under Rudolf Bial (de) at the Stadt Theatre
on 21 November 1874. The German première took place
at Munich's Gärtnerplatztheater in 1875. Die
Fledermaus was sung in English at London's Alhambra
Theatre on 18 December 1876, with its score modified
by Hamilton Clarke.
The first London performance
in German did not take place until 1895. According to the
archivist of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, "Twenty
years after its production as a lyric opera in Vienna,
[composer and conductor Gustav] Mahler raised the artistic
status of Strauss's work by producing it at the Hamburg
Opera House [...] all the leading opera houses in Europe,
notably Vienna and Munich, have brightened their regular
repertoire by including it for occasional performance."
The role of Eisenstein was
originally written for a tenor, but is nowadays frequently
sung by a baritone. The role of Orlofsky is a trouser role,
usually performed by a mezzo-soprano.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Johann Strauss - Die Fledermaus - Overture
Vienna New Years Concert 2010, Die Fledermaus Overture
The Messa da Requiem is a musical setting of the Roman Catholic
funeral mass (Requiem) for four soloists, double choir and orchestra
by Verdi Giuseppe. It was composed in memory of Alessandro Manzoni,
an Italian poet and novelist who was admired by Verdi. The first
performance, at the San Marco church in Milan on 22 May 1874, marked
the first anniversary of Manzoni's death. The work was at one time
called the Manzoni Requiem. Although originally composed for
liturgical purposes, in modern days it is rarely performed in
liturgy, but rather in concert form of around 85–90 minutes in
length. Musicologist David Rosen calls it 'probably the most
frequently performed major choral work composed since the
compilation of Mozart's Requiem.'
After Gioachino Rossini's death in 1868, Verdi suggested that a
number of Italian composers collaborate on a Requiem in Rossini's
honor. He began the effort by submitting the concluding movement,
the Libera me. During the next year a Messa per Rossini was compiled
by Verdi and twelve other famous Italian composers of the time. The
premiere was scheduled for 13 November 1869, the first anniversary
of Rossini's death.
However, on 4 November, nine days before the premiere, the
organising committee abandoned it. Verdi blamed this on the
scheduled conductor, Angelo Mariani. He pointed to Mariani's lack of
enthusiasm for the project, even though he had been part of the
organising committee from the start, and it marked the beginning of
the end of their friendship. The piece fell into oblivion until
1988, when Helmuth Rilling premiered the complete Messa per Rossini
in Stuttgart, Germany.
Alessandro Manzoni, in whose honour Verdi wrote the Requiem
In the meantime, Verdi kept toying with his Libera me, frustrated
that the combined commemoration of Rossini's life would not be
performed in his lifetime.
On 22 May 1873, the Italian writer and humanist Alessandro
Manzoni, whom Verdi had admired all his adult life and met in 1868,
died. Upon hearing of his death, Verdi resolved to complete a
Requiem—this time entirely of his own writing—for Manzoni. Verdi
traveled to Paris in June, where he commenced work on the Requiem,
giving it the form we know today. It included a revised version of
the Libera me originally composed for Rossini.
The Requiem was first performed in the church of San Marco in Milan
on 22 May 1874, the first anniversary of Manzoni's death. Verdi
himself conducted, and the four soloists were Teresa Stolz
(soprano), Maria Waldmann (mezzo-soprano), Giuseppe Capponi (tenor)
and Ormondo Maini (bass).
As Aida, Amneris and Ramfis respectively, Stolz, Waldmann, and
Maini had all sung in the European premiere of Aida in 1872, and
Capponi was also intended to sing the role of Radames at that
premiere but was replaced due to illness. Teresa Stolz went on to a
brilliant career, Waldmann retired very young in 1875, but the male
singers appear to have faded into obscurity. Also, Teresa Stolz was
engaged to Angelo Mariani in 1869, but she later left him.
The Requiem was repeated at La Scala three days later on 25 May
with the same soloists and Verdi again conducting. It won immediate
contemporary success, although not everywhere. It received seven
performances at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, but the new Royal Albert
Hall in London could not be filled for such a Catholic occasion. In
Venice, impressive Byzantine ecclesiastical decor was designed for
the occasion of the performance.
Requiem poster for La Scala premiere, 1874
It later disappeared from the standard choral repertoire, but
made a reappearance in the 1930s and is now regularly performed and
a staple of many choral societies.
The playwright and music critic George Bernard Shaw was a great
admirer of the work from its first London performance, and had the
Libera me played at his funeral.
The second performance of the Requiem, at La Scala on 25 May
1874, with Verdi conducting. The soloists depicted are (left to
right) Ormondo Maini, Giuseppe Capponi, Maria Waldmann, and Teresa
20th century and beyond
The Requiem was performed 16 times between 1943 and 1944 by
prisoners in the concentration camp of Theresienstadt (also known as
Terezín) under the direction of Rafael Schächter. The performances
were extraordinary on several counts: first, they had only a single
vocal score with piano accompaniment, so every part had to be
learned from memory; second, they practised in a dark, cold, damp
basement with only a broken piano after long days of forced labour;
and third, as the performances took place over an extended period,
many of the singers were removed by the Nazis and had to be
replaced. The final performance particularly provided a basis for
dignified self-expression as well as attempting to symbolically
communicate the circumstances at the camp to a visiting
International Red Cross delegation in 1944.
In 2006, Murry Sidlin performed the Requiem in the same hall in
which the Red Cross performance had taken place and rehearsed the
choir in the same basement where the original inmates learnt and
practised their parts.
It was part of the Prague Spring Festival and
children of the survivors sang in the choir with their parents
sitting in the audience.
The Requiem has been staged in a variety of ways several times in
recent years. Achim Freyer created a production for the Deutsche
Oper Berlin in 2006 that was revived in 2007, 2011 and 2013.
In Freyer's staging, the four sung roles, "Der Weiße Engel" (The White
Angel), "Der Tod-ist-die-Frau" (Death is the Woman), "Einsam"
(Solitude), and "Der Beladene" (The Load Bearer) are complemented by
choreographed allegorical characters.
In 2011, Oper Köln premiered a full staging by Clemens Bechtel
where the four main characters were shown in different life and
death situations: the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a Turkish writer
in prison, a young woman with bulimia, and an aid worker in Africa.
Versions and arrangements
For a Paris performance, Verdi revised the Liber scriptus to allow
Maria Waldmann a further solo for future performances.
Versions accompanied by four pianos or brass band were also
Franz Liszt transcribed the Agnus Dei for solo piano (S. 437). It
has been recorded by Leslie Howard.
First edition title page, Ricordi, 1874
Sections 1. Introit and Kyrie (chorus, soloists) 2. Dies irae Dies irae (chorus) Tuba mirum (chorus) Mors stupebit (bass) Liber scriptus (mezzo-soprano, chorus) Quid sum miser (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor) Rex tremendae (soloists, chorus) Recordare (soprano, mezzo-soprano) Ingemisco (tenor) Confutatis (bass, chorus) Lacrymosa (soloists, chorus) 3. Offertory Domine Jesu Christe (soloists) Hostias (soloists) 4. Sanctus (double chorus) 5. Agnus Dei (soprano, mezzo-soprano, chorus) 6. Lux aeterna (mezzo-soprano, tenor, bass) 7. Libera me (soprano, chorus) Libera me Dies irae Requiem aeternam Libera me
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Verdi: Requiem - Karajan - La Scala
Orchestra and Chorus of Milan
Great and dramatic presentation of
Herbert von Karajan (in my personal opinion, the best conductor of
all times) conducting La Scala Orchestra and Chorus of Milano with
Luciano Pavarotti, Leontyne Price, Fiorenza Cossotto and Nikolai
Ghiaurov at an amazing version of Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem.
Genial y dramática presentación de
Herbert von Karajan conduciendo a la Orquesta y Coro La Scala de
Milán, junto a Luciano Pavarotti, Leontyne Price, Fiorenza Cossotto
y Nikolai Ghiaurov en una sorprendente versión del Requiém de
0:08:43 Dies Irae
0:10:55 Tuba Mirum
0:12:58 Mors Stupebit
0:14:19 Liber Scriptus
0:19:23 Quid Sum Miser
0:23:13 Rex Tremendae
0:59:51 Agnus Dei
1:04:32 Lux Aeterna
1:10:45 Libera Me