Lesser-Known Soviet Era Composers

This April, we celebrate the birthdays of two influential Soviet Era composers: Sergei Rachmaninoff (April 1st) and Sergei Prokofiev (April 23rd). Rachmaninoff is known for his soaring, romantic melodies, while Prokofiev’s music is more dissonant and fantastical. Along with Shostakovitch and Stravinsky, they brought international attention to Russian music, often in exile from or direct defiance of the Soviet government. Many other Russian Soviet Era composers made significant musical contributions, yet their works are obscure and under-performed. Here are just a few of these composers:

Reinhold Glière

REINHOLD GLIÈRE (January 11, 1875 – June 23, 1956) made his name with folkloric pieces like his Slavonic epic Symphony No. 3 ‘Ilya Muromets,’ as well as an excellent body of chamber music. He taught Miaskovsky, featured below, and a young Prokofiev. He later conducted musical research in Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. Today, his most played works are his string duos and numerous works for double bass.

Nikolai Roslavets

NIKOLAI ROSLAVETS (January 4, 1881 – August 23, 1944) was a modernist composer, deeply influenced by Scriabin, as well as Schoenberg’s twelve-tone serialism. Fiercely outspoken about artistic liberty, he was among the first to be targeted by the Soviet Union’s political purges. His string works include two violin concerti, viola and cello sonatas, and many shorter violin works.

Nikolai Miaskovsky

NIKOLAI MIASKOVSKY (April 20, 1881 – August 8, 1950), known as the “Father of the Soviet Symphony,” composed 27 of them. He was good friends with Shostakovitch and Prokofiev, and taught Khachaturian and Kabalevsky. He was an introspective composer, a quality exemplified in his cello concerto.

Mieczysław Weinberg

MIECZYSŁAW WEINBERG (December 8, 1919 – February 26, 1996) was a Jewish Polish composer who fled the Holocaust to live in Russia. He struggled to be recognized by the Soviet musical establishment, and narrowly escaped execution by the Stalinist government. He enjoyed a close friendship with Shostakovich, and the two frequently exchanged musical ideas. Weinberg was prolific – he wrote twenty-two symphonies, seventeen string quartets, and many works for solo strings.

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Copyright © 2019 · All Rights Reserved · Nate Faro

Women Composers You Should Know About: Part One

This Women’s History Month, we honor women of the past and present by acknowledging their accomplishments, struggles and hard work to attain sometimes the barest recognition from society. Women composers are particularly absent from the spotlight; however, they have gained increased visibility in recent years. New Hampshire-born Amy Beach is perhaps the most prominent female composer in American history. She enjoyed a fair amount of recognition by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in her lifetime.

Our sheet music collection at Johnson String Instrument includes music by countless other past and present women composers. Below is our first installment exploring these pioneering women and their exciting compositions.

Rebecca Clarke

REBECCA CLARKE (August 27, 1886 – October 13, 1979) was an English composer and violist. Forced on to the streets by her father at age 20, Clarke supported herself as a performer and became one of the first female professional violists, in chamber and orchestral settings alike. Her compositions are known for their lyricism, lush harmonies, and intense emotion. She faced numerous difficulties as a female composer, and her work was largely forgotten at the end of her life. Today, interest in her music has soared. The Viola Sonata from 1919 is her best-known work and a gem of the viola repertoire, its bold opening melody instantly recognizable.

Adriana Figueroa Mañas

ADRIANA FIGUEROA MAÑAS (b. October 19, 1966) has enjoyed performances of works on four continents. She is a member of the International Alliance of Women in Music, as well as the Argentinian Foundation of Woman Composers. She also plays flute and is the saxophonist in the West Jazz Band of Mendoza. Her colorful compositions, such as Tres Piezas en Clave de Tango, evoke the music of her native Argentina.

Grazyna Bacewicz

GRAZYNA BACEWICZ (February 5, 1909 – January 17, 1969) was a prominent Polish composer and violinist. As a student in Paris, she studied composition with Nadia Boulanger and violin with Carl Flesch. She became the concertmaster of the Polish Radio Orchestra in 1936. During World War II, she lived in Warsaw, where she gave secret underground concerts featuring her music. Her violin-centric works display interest in folksong and show the modernist influence of Bartók. Her Concertino for Violin and Piano is a fantastic student-level work of intermediate difficulty.

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Copyright © 2019 · All Rights Reserved · Nate Faro