1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Glinka, Michael Ivanovich

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GLINKA, MICHAEL IVANOVICH (1803–1857), Russian musical composer, was born at Novospassky, a village in the Smolensk government, on the 2nd of June 1803. His early life he spent at home, but at the age of thirteen we find him at the Blagorodrey Pension, St Petersburg, where he studied music under Carl Maier and John Field, the Irish composer and pianist, who had settled in Russia. We are told that in his seventeenth year he had already begun to compose romances and other minor vocal pieces; but of these nothing now is known. His thorough musical training did not begin till the year 1830, when he went abroad and stayed for three years in Italy, to study the works of old and modern Italian masters. His thorough knowledge of the requirements of the voice may be connected with this course of study. His training as a composer was finished under the contrapuntist Dehn, with whom Glinka stayed for several months at Berlin. In 1833 he returned to Russia, and devoted himself to operatic composition. On the 27th of September (9th of October) 1836, took place the first representation of his opera Life for the Tsar (the libretto by Baron de Rosen). This was the turning-point in Glinka’s life,—for the work was not only a great success, but in a manner became the origin and basis of a Russian school of national music. The story is taken from the invasion of Russia by the Poles early in the 17th century, and the hero is a peasant who sacrifices his life for the tsar. Glinka has wedded this patriotic theme to inspiring music. His melodies, moreover, show distinct affinity to the popular songs of the Russians, so that the term “national” may justly be applied to them. His appointment as imperial chapelmaster and conductor of the opera of St Petersburg was the reward of his dramatic successes. His second opera Russlan and Lyudmila, founded on Pushkin’s poem, did not appear till 1842; it was an advance upon Life for the Tsar in its musical aspect, but made no impression upon the public. In the meantime Glinka wrote an overture and four entre-actes to Kukolnik’s drama Prince Kholmsky. In 1844 he went to Paris, and his Jota Arragonesa (1847), and the symphonic work on Spanish themes, Une Nuit à Madrid, reflect the musical results of two years’ sojourn in Spain. On his return to St Petersburg he wrote and arranged several pieces for the orchestra, amongst which the so-called Kamarinskaya achieved popularity beyond the limits of Russia. He also composed numerous songs and romances. In 1857 he went abroad for the third time; he now wrote his autobiography, orchestrated Weber’s Invitation à la valse, and began to consider a plan for a musical version of Gogol’s Tarass-Boulba. Abandoning the idea and becoming absorbed in a passion for ecclesiastical music he went to Berlin to study the ancient church modes. Here he died suddenly on the 2nd of February 1857.