The Music Plays On

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Vasily Kalinnikov

Usually, the pieces that one hears for the first time at just the right age can become embedded into your memory like a tattoo. The first movement of Kalinnikov’s Symphony №1 in G Minor was a piece I played in high school and while I can certainly how these youthful memories can cloud one’s judgement, I’m always in amazement why this piece has not remained in the standard repertoire…it is that good.

The son of a police officer, Kalinnikov was born near Oryol in western Russia in 1866. He was accepted to the Moscow Conservatory but could not afford tuition, so continued his studies bassoon and composition at Moscow Philharmonic. Tchaikovsky recommended Kalinnikov to the Maly Theater to be the main conductor but he didn’t stay long in this condition because he had an ever-worsening condition of tuberculosis. He sought a warmer climate and move to Yalta where he composed the bulk of his symphonic work, including his Symphony №1. Kalinnikov would die just days short of his 35th birthday in January 1901.

Kalinnikov’s Symphony №1 was composed during the years 1894 and 1895 and was premiered at Russian Music Society in Kiev and conducted by Alexsandr Vinogradsky. In Russia this piece has never left the repertoire and is as popular as symphonies composed by other Russian composers far more famous that Kalinnikov! Also, during the first half of the twentieth century this symphony was enormously popular throughout Europe and the U.S.

I am so excited to share my favorite performances and recordings of Kalinnikov’s Symphony №1.