A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Glinka, Michael

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GLINKA, Michael Ivanovitch, born 1803 [App. p.648 "May 20, 1804"] near Novospaskoi in Russia, died Feb. 15 [App. p.648 "Feb. 2"], 1857, at Berlin. Of late years several northern composers, not German by birth but German as far as their musical method goes—like Gade the Dane, Grieg and Svendsen the Norwegians, Glinka, Anton Rubinstein, and Peter Tschaikoffsky the Russians—have made their mark more or less strongly. Glinka is the earliest of the Russians, as gifted as any, perhaps, but not so accomplished; there has always been a dash of dilettantism about his productions, spite of his obvious talents, his gift of spontaneous, and (to those who do not know much of Russian folk-songs and dances) original melody, and his undeniable cleverness in the manipulation of the voice and of orchestral instruments. Glinka's two Russian operas are held to be of national importance by his country-men. They were among the first musical works in Russian, and for a long time the best of their kind, though their value has undoubtedly been exaggerated from patriotic motives.

In early youth Glinka enjoyed the advantage of lessons in pianoforte playing from John Field. In 1830 he visited Italy, and made a close study of Italian singing and of the Italian method of composition for the voice; but, feeling himself helpless as regards harmony and counterpoint, he went, in 1833, to Berlin for some months, and worked hard as the pupil of S. W. Dehn. Thence he returned to Russia, and became court conductor, and director of the opera and the choral performances at the imperial churches. From 1840 to 50 he again led an itinerant life, the centre of which was Paris, and the extent the confines of Spain. In the autumn of 1856 he came back to Berlin, had much intercourse with his old master Dehn upon the subject of ancient church tunes connected with the Eastern Church, and died there, unexpectedly, early in 1857.

Glinka's name is associated with the titles of two Russian operas, 'La Vie pour le Czar' and 'Russian et Ludmilla,' neither of which, spite of repeated trials, have been able to gain a firm footing outside their native land. A number of orchestral arrangements or transcriptions, such as 'La Jots Aragonese,' etc., as well as many romances and songs, complete the list of his productions. Of these a catalogue is given by Gustav Bertrand in the Supplement to Fétis. He left his own memoir in Russian; and sketches of his life, also in Russian, have been published by Stanoff and Solovieff. [App. p.648 "'La Vie pour le Czar' was produced at Covent Garden in Italian, July 12, 1887."]

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