Learning to Listen: Russian Music from The Mighty Handful

by Emily Reese, Minnesota Public Radio
January 6, 2014

St. Paul, Minn. — Russian music underwent quite a transition in the 19th century, thanks in large part to composer Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857).

Professor of Music at Cardiff University, Stephen Walsh, wrote a new book about Russian music in the 19th century, Musorgsky and His Circle.

Professor Walsh joins Learning to Listen to talk about The Mighty Handful, a group of five composers inspired by Glinka to write classical music that sounded Russian, not German.

Glinka harvested material from Russian folk songs. He wrote Russian music with Russian texts and Russian characters.

The Mighty Handful consisted of Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Mily Balakirev, Alexander Borodin and Cesar Cui.

Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov are the most famous; Borodin and Balakirev wrote wonderful music as well.

Cesar Cui is the black sheep, as it were - his music maintained a more traditional, German sound - perhaps why his music and name haven't survived.

Professor Walsh talks about each composer, and you'll hear samples of their music on today's Learning to Listen.

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