Mikhail Glinka  
Mikhail Glinka

Mikhail Glinka in 1856
Mikhail Glinka, in full Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka (born May 21 [June 1, New Style], 1804, Novospasskoye, Russia—died February 3 [February 15], 1857, Berlin, Prussia [Germany]), the first Russian composer to win international recognition, and the acknowledged founder of the Russian nationalist school.

Glinka first became interested in music at age 10 or 11, when he heard his uncle’s private orchestra. He studied at the Chief Pedagogic Institute at St. Petersburg (1818–22) and took piano lessons with the Irish pianist and composer John Field. He worked for four years in the Ministry of Communications but was uninterested in an official career. As a dilettante he composed songs and a certain amount of chamber music. Three years in Italy brought him under the spell of the composers Vincenzo Bellini and Gaetano Donizetti, though ultimately homesickness led him to the idea of writing music “in Russian.”

Glinka in the 1840s, portrait by Yanenko


He studied composition seriously for six months in Berlin, where he began his Sinfonia per l’orchestra sopra due motive russe (1834; “Symphony for Orchestra on Two Russian Motifs”). Recalled to Russia by his father’s death, he married and began to compose the opera that first won him fame, A Life for the Tsar (later renamed Ivan Susanin), produced in 1836. During this period, Glinka composed some of his best songs, and in 1842 his second opera, Ruslan and Lyudmila, was produced. The exotic subject and boldly original music of Ruslan won neither favour nor popular acclaim, although Franz Liszt was struck by the novelty of the music.

Disgruntled, and with his marriage broken, Glinka left Russia in 1844. He had the satisfaction of hearing excerpts from both his operas performed in Paris under Hector Berlioz (1845, as the first performance of Russian music in the West) and other conductors. From Paris he went to Spain, where he stayed until May 1847, collecting the materials used in his two “Spanish overtures,” the capriccio brillante on the Jota aragonesa (1845; “Aragonese Jota”) and Summer Night in Madrid (1848). Between 1852 and 1854 he was again abroad, mostly in Paris, until the outbreak of the Crimean War drove him home again. He then wrote his highly entertaining Zapiski (Memoirs; first published in St. Petersburg, 1887), which give a remarkable self-portrait of his indolent, amiable, hypochondriacal character. His last notable composition was Festival Polonaise for Tsar Alexander II’s coronation ball (1855).

Glinka has been described as a dilettante of genius. His slender output is considered the foundation of most later Russian music of value. Ruslan and Lyudmila provided models of lyrical melody and colourful orchestration on which Mily Balakirev, Aleksandr Borodin, and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov formed their styles. Glinka’s orchestral composition Kamarinskaya (1848) was said by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to be the acorn from which the oak of later Russian symphonic music grew.

Encyclopædia Britannica


Grave of Mikhail Glinka in Tikhvin Cemetery in Saint Petersburg

Glinka was the father of the nationalist tradition in music. He was born m Smolensk. and his first musical influences were Rais-sian folk songs and church bells. He went to school in St Petersburg until 1822 and remained there until 1830, earning a meagre living as a pianist and singer. His early compositions were crude, but showed an instinctive feeling for folk melody.

In Italy from 1830 to 1833 he encountered Bellini and Donizetti, but ultimately felt uncomfortable with the Italian operatic style and moved on to Berlin for his first formal composition instruction, from Siegfried Dehn. He returned to Russia on hearing news of his father's death, and married shortly afterwards.

From 1835 to 1836 Glinka worked on his first opera, A life for the Tsar. Based on a story by Zhukovsky, it tells how Ivan Susanin, at the cost of his own life, saved the first Romanov Tsar from a band of Poles. It was an instant success, not least with the Tsar, and Glinka was appointed Imperial Kapellmeister the following year.

Glinka immediately set to work on his next opera, but the distractions of marital break-up delayed its completion until 1 842. The result, Ruslan and Lyudmila, was not a great success. Pushkin's fairy tale was unsuitable as an operatic plot and the work suffered from dramatic limpness, despite containing some of Glinka's best music. Somewhat discouraged, in 1844 he left for Paris, where he got on well with Berlioz, and also visited Spam; but on his return to Russia in 1847 he brought little new music. During a stay in Warsaw in 1848, however, he composed the orchestral piece Kamarinskaya. which profoundly influenced Tchaikovsky and the composers known as "The Five." Kamarinskaya uses a "changing background" technique to present some 70 variations of a folk tune. As the term suggests, the melody remains unaltered while the accompaniment evolves continually, and the work as a whole shows Glinka at his most inventive.

In his final years, Glinka returned to Pans before visiting Dehn again in Berlin, where he died earlv in 1857.


Ilya Repin's portrait of Glinka was painted thirty years after the composer's death

Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra
"Ruslan and Ludmilla"
 - Overture


Irina Vasileva
Abschied von St.Petersburg



Serg van Gennip
The Lark (Zhavoronok)
(Edited for piano by Balakirev)


Mary Angelina Mei
Nocturne in F minor "La Separation"

A Life for the Tsar -1836
A Life for the Tsar (Russian: Жизнь за царя, Zhizn' za tsarya), as it is known in English, although in Soviet times its name was Ivan Susanin (Russian: Иван Сусанин) is a "patriotic-heroic tragic opera" in four acts with an epilogue by Mikhail Glinka. The original Russian libretto, based on historical events, was written by Nestor Kukolnik, Baron Egor Fyodorovich (von) Rozen, Vladimir Sollogub and Vasily Zhukovsky. It premiered on 27 November 1836 OS (9 December NS) at the Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre in St. Petersburg. The historical basis of the plot involves Ivan Susanin, a patriotic hero of the early 17th century who gave his life in the expulsion of the invading Polish army for the newly elected Tsar Mikhail, the first of the Romanov dynasty, elected in 1613.

Composition history

The plot of A Life for the Tsar had been used earlier in 1815, when Catterino Cavos, an Italian-Russian composer, had written a two-act singspiel with the same subject and title. The original title of the opera was to be Ivan Susanin, after the hero, but when Nicholas I attended a rehearsal, Glinka changed the title to A Life for the Tsar as an ingratiating gesture. This title was retained in the Russian Empire.

In 1924, under the new Soviet regime, it appeared under the title Hammer and Sickle, but that production was not successful and was shelved. On 26 February 1939 it reappeared under the title Glinka had originally chosen, Ivan Susanin.

Glinka and the writers with whom he was associated chose, in Susanin, a hero of Russian nationalism well suited to the mood of the time. The opera was immediately hailed as a great success, and became the obligatory season-opener in the Imperial Russian opera theaters. A Life for the Tsar occupies an important position in Russian musical theater as the first native opera to win a permanent place in the repertoire. It was one of the first Russian operas to be known outside Russia.

Performance history
The opera was given its premiere performance on 27 November 1836 in Saint Petersburg conducted by Catterino Cavos with set designs by Andrei Roller. It was followed several years later with its premiere in Moscow on 7 September (Old Style) 1842 in a new production with sets by Serkov and Shenyan.

Osip Petrov as Susanin
Fyodor Shalyapin as Susanin
Fyodor Shalyapin as Susanin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mikhail Glinka - A Life for the Tsar
Mikhail Glinka - A Life for the Tsar, "Overture"
Choir/Orchestra: Sofia Nationa Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Conductor: Ivan Maximov
Recorded in: 1986
Glinka. Life for the Tzar. Finale. М.И. Глинка. Финал ("Славься") из оперы "Жизнь за Царя"
Mikhailovsky Theatre orchestra and choir , March 6, 2013, State Hermitage, Saint-Petersburg
Ruslan and Lyudmila - 1842
Ruslan and Lyudmila (Russian: Руслан и Людмила, Ruslan i Lyudmila) is an opera in five acts (eight tableaux) composed by Mikhail Glinka between 1837 and 1842. The opera is based on the 1820 poem of the same name by Alexander Pushkin. The Russian libretto was written by Valerian Shirkov, Nestor Kukolnik and N. A. Markevich, among others. Pushkin's death in the famous duel prevented him from writing the libretto himself as planned.

Today, the best-known music from the opera is its overture.

Performance history

The premiere took place in Saint Petersburg on 27 November (Old Style) 1842 at the Bolshoi Kamenniy Teatr. The initial lack of enthusiasm for this Russian-inspired production has been attributed to the St. Petersburg's audience's growing taste at the time for Italian opera, which was so pronounced that in 1843, Tsar Nicholas I established an Italian opera company in the Bolshoi Kamenniy Teatr, and the Russian opera company lost its home. Four years later, the opera was given its Moscow premiere at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1846. The opera has been a mainstay of the Bolshoi, having staged over 700 performances in 9 different productions over the past 165 years.

The opera was first performed on 4 June 1931 at the Lyceum Theatre in London and in the US as a concert version in New York on 26 December 1942. It was given its first staged performance in the US by Sarah Caldwell's Opera Company of Boston on 5 March 1977.

Aleksandra Krutikova as Ratmir (1880s)
Fyodor Shalyapin as Farlaf (1901)
Lidiya Zvyagina as Ratmir (1900s)
Antonina Nezhdanova as Lyudmila (1911)


Time: The time of Kievan Rus' (9th to 13th centuries)
Place: Kiev; various imaginary and fantastic locations

Act 1
In Svetozar's banquet hall, the wedding feast for Ruslan and Lyudmila is taking place. The guests listen to Bayan sing a song foretelling misfortune for the bride and groom, followed by happiness from true love. Lyudmila, saddened by the prospect of leaving her father, offers words of comfort to her unsuccessful suitors, Farlaf and Ratmir, and then pledges herself to Ruslan. Svetozar blesses the couple. All of a sudden everything goes dark and there is a crash of thunder. The people are paralysed by a spell while two monsters carry Lyudmila away. When light returns and everyone recovers, they panic over Lyudmila's disappearance. Svetozar promises half his kingdom and Lyudmila's hand to the man who brings her back. The three suitors ready themselves for the journey to find Lyudmila.

Act 2
Tableau 1

Ruslan comes upon the cave of the kindly wizard Finn, who tells him that the evil sorcerer Chernomor has absconded with Lyudmila and that Ruslan is the man who will destroy him. Ruslan asks Finn why he lives in this deserted place, and Finn relates the story of many years ago, when he was a shepherd in his distant homeland (he says he is "a Finn") and fell in love with a beautiful girl named Naina. When she rejected his declaration of love, he went off to do battle with enemies for booty. Returning with this booty, he presented it to Naina, but she yet again spurned him. Then he resolved to study magic to win her; many years went by, and through sorcery he finally summoned an old, grey-haired, humpbacked woman – it was Naina, who now was mad with passion for him. He ran away from her and has been hiding from her ever since. For abandoning her, Naina is consumed by vengeful hatred, which will likewise fall upon Ruslan. Assuring him that Lyudmila will not be harmed, Finn instructs Ruslan to head north, and the two of them exit in opposite directions.

Tableau 2

In a deserted place, the cowardly Farlaf wonders whether he should continue searching for Lyudmila, when the decrepit Naina approaches him. She promises to get Lyudmila for him and send Ruslan far away. She disappears, and Farlaf rejoices in his triumph.

Tableau 3

Ruslan, having come upon a foggy desert strewn with weapons and bones from a past battle, wonders at the cause of this scene and whether he, too, may end up the same way. He chooses a new shield and spear from the ground to replace his broken weaponry, but cannot find a sword heavy enough to complete his new set of armor. When the fog lifts, a giant Head is revealed and blows through its lips to bring up a storm so as to drive Ruslan away. When Ruslan strikes the head with his spear, the Head falls back and reveals a sword underneath. He takes it and asks the Head whence it came. As it is dying, the Head explains that it once was a giant, and his dwarf brother is the evil sorcerer Chernomor. The sword was destined to kill both of them; so, in order to forestall fate, Chernomor tricked the giant, beheaded him, and flew his live head away to the distant desert to keep the sword protected underneath it. With the sword now in Ruslan's hands, the Head calls for vengeance on Chernomor.

Illustration for Ruslan and Lyudmila by Rustam Ramazanov


Act 3
Young maidens are luring passing travelers to enter Naina's magical castle. Gorislava appears, looking for Ratmir, who had taken her captive and then abandoned her. After she goes away for a moment, Ratmir himself comes on the scene and falls under the spell of the maidens, who seduce him with dance. The final guest attracted to the castle is Ruslan, who finds himself forgetting Lyudmila upon seeing Gorislava. Suddenly Finn appears; and, after pronouncing a happy fate for Ratmir with Gorislava, and for Ruslan with Lyudmila, the castle turns into a forest as they resolve to rescue Lyudmila.

Ruslan Meeting the Talking Head, by Ivan Bilibin


Act 4
Within Chernomor's magical gardens, Lyudmila longs for Ruslan and resists the influence of the enchanted surroundings. Chernomor with his retinue arrives; dances are performed. A trumpet call signals a challenge from Ruslan. Chernomor puts Lyudmila under a sleeping spell and goes off to fight Ruslan, who shortly comes on the scene triumphantly wearing Chernomor's beard around his helmet. Although he is disheartened by Lyudmila's condition, Ruslan, along with Ratmir and Gorislava, resolve to return to Kiev with Lyudmila to seek the aid of the magicians there. Chernomor's former slaves freely come along.

The Gardens of Chernomor, by Andreas Roller (1842)


Act 5
Tableau 1

In a moonlit valley, Ruslan, Ratmir, and Gorislava, with Lyudmila, have camped for the night. Ratmir, who is standing guard, worries about Ruslan, and then expresses his happiness at his reunion with Gorislava. Suddenly the slaves report that Lyudmila once again has been abducted and that Ruslan has left in search of her. Finn appears, gives a magic ring to Ratmir that will awaken Lyudmila when she is brought back to Kiev.

Tableau 2

Lyudmila lies asleep in Svetozar's banquet hall. It turns out that Farlaf, with Naina's assistance, kidnapped Lyudmila and brought her to Kiev so as to appear to have been her rescuer. However, he cannot waken her. Horses approach, and Ruslan, Ratmir, and Gorislava arrive. Ruslan brings the magic ring to Lyudmila, and she awakens. As the tableau opens onto a view of Kiev, the people rejoice in their gods, their motherland, and the young couple.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Title page of a score
(A. Gutheil, Moscow, 1885)
Russlan and Ludmilla (Overture) / Orchestra Of Mariinsky Theatre
Russlan And Ludmilla (Overture) - Milkhail Ivanovich Glinka
Orchestra Of Mariinsky Theatre - Director Valery Gergiev
Mikhail Glinka: Selected Orchestral Works (Evgeny Svetlanov - 1969 vinyl LP)
1. Jota Aragonesa
(Spanish Overture no. 1) (at 0:07)

2. Recollections of a Summer Night in Madrid
(Fantasia on Spanish Themes - Spanish Overture no. 2) (at 9:19)

3. Kamarinskaya
(Fantasia for Orchestra on Themes of Wedding and Dance Songs) (at 18:24)

4. Valse - Fantaisie (at 25:46)

5. Chernomor's March
(from the opera "Russlan and Lyudmilla") (at 34:37)

6. Oriental Dances: a) Turkish b) Arabian c) Lezghinka
(from the opera "Russlan and Lyudmilla") (at 39:03)


LP released in 1969

Mikhail Glinka - Symphony on Two Russian Themes in D minor
Conductor: Vassily Sinaisky
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
14 pieces by Michail Ivanovič Glinka (Mazurkas, Valses, Variations etc.)
00:00 - 3 Mazurkas. As-dur, F-dur, F-dur
03:16 - Mazurka in c-moll
05:03 - Mazurka in G-dur
05:48 - Mazurka in C-dur
06:56 - Valse melodique
08:57 - Fugue in Es-dur
10:50 - Nocturne in Es-dur
15:56 - Variations on a theme of Mozart in Es-dur (original version)
28:50 - Variations on two themes from the ballet 'Chao-Kang' in D-dur
34:29 - Variations on a theme from the opera 'I Capuleti e i Montecchi' by Bellini in C-dur
44:13 - Variations on the Romance 'Benedetta sia la madre' in E-dur
58:15 - Fugue in D-dur
01:01:28 - Grande Valse in G-dur

Victor Ryabchikov, pianist

Glinka "Waltz-Fantasia"
Galina Vishnevskaya: Songs of Mikhail Glinka
I. Somneniye 00:00
II. Ya pomnyu chudnoye mgnoven'ye 04:44
III. Kak sladko s toboju mne nyt 08:10
IV. K nej 11:35
V. Tol'ko uznal ja tebja 13:06
VI. Venecianskaja noc 14:54
VII. Zavoronok 18:08
VIII. Barkarola 21:31
IX. Kolybel'naya 24:21
X. Adele 30:46
XI. Finsky zaliv 33:30
XII. Pesnya Gretkhen 36:23
XIII. Skazhi zachem 40:03
XIV. Ne poy, krasavitsa, pri mne 42:53
XV. Ya zdes' Inezil'ya 44:33

Glinka, Mikhail (1804-57)
Galina Vishnevskaya -soprano
Mstislav Rostropovich -piano

Mikhaïl Glinka: Lieder - Paris, 1954 (Christoff; Labinsky)
Boris Christoff, basso
Alexandre Labinsky, piano

1- Ночной смотр (Midnight review) 1836
2- Колыьельная песня (Cradle song) / Прощание к Петербургом 1840 (Kukolnik)
3- Что, красотка молодая (Why do you cry young beauty?) 1827 (Devlig)
4- Где наша роза (Where is our rose?) 1837 (Pushkin)
5- Жаворонок (The lark) / Прощание к Петербургом 1840 (Kukolni)
6- Милочка (Darling) 1847
7- Сомнение (Doubt) 1838 (Kulkonik)
8- Дедушка! -- девицы раз мне говорили (She once asked me) 1828 (Delvig)
9- Как сладко с тобою мне быть (How sweet to be with Thee) 1840 (Ryndin)
10- Не говори, что сердцу больно (Do not say the heart is sick) 1856 (Pavlov)
11- Еврейская ресня (Hebrew song) / Прощание к Петербургом 1840 (Kukolnik)
12- Auf's neue verfolge mich nicht (Elégie) 1825
13- Я помню чудное мгновенье (I remember the wonderful moment) 1840 (Pushkin)

Mikhail Glinka - Kamarinskaya
Fantasy on Russian Folk Songs for Orchestra

Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra (Filharmonie Brno)

Mikhail Glinka - Capriccio brilliante on the Jota aragonesa
Capriccio brilliante on the Jota aragonesa

Prague Symphony Orchestra
Jiří Bělohlávek

Yuri Bashmet- Glinka Viola Sonata in d minor mvt 1
Yuri Bashmet, Mikhail Muntian
Mikhail Glinka - The Lark - Evgeny Kissin
Galina Vishnevskaya Sings Mikhail Glinka's "The Lark"
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