Don's Weekly Listen: Balakirev's Islamey
Last week we made the acquaintance of Les Six, authors of the soundtrack to the French 1920s. Today’s Weekly Listen hails from their predecessors in the arena of compositional social clubs, Russia’s Moguchaya Kuchka (“mighty handful”).
This group, constituted in the 1860s, inherited from Mikhail Glinka the project of creating a distinct Russian sound in concert music. It numbered five members: Mily Balakirev, Alexander Borodin, César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
The Kuchka is justly credited with most of the innovations that made Russia a world power in music. Mussorgsky’s harmonic avant-gardism, as exemplified in operas like Boris Godunov, built the scaffolding for the path-breaking modernism of Stravinsky’s Firebird and Rite of Spring. Rimsky-Korsakov’s luxurious orchestrations gave Russian romanticism a richness to rival the Tolstoian novel. And then, there was the innovation that rankles postcolonial theorists the world over to this day: the oriental style.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial