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Mikhail Glinka, Great Russian Composer

If you spend some time in Moscow, you should plan a visit to the Glinka Museum of Musical Culture. There you can see and listen to ancient instruments from more than 50 different countries. The guide will tell you their origin and history, as well as introducing you with the life and work of famous composers.

The work of Tchaikovsky is well known and appreciated around the world, но не все знакомы с музыкой не менее талантливого русского композитора М. И. Глинки (but not everyone is familiar with the music of no less talented Russian composer Mikhail Glinka, 1804-1857).

Glinka was born in 1804. Son of a landlord he received an excellent education, including music. His uncle had his own orchestra, where the young Misha played the violin and the flute, and later the piano. At the age of 20, he had a beautiful voice and he began to appear with the orchestra, singing Russian romances and arias from operas.

Именно его в музыкальных кругах считают создателем русской музыкальной классики (Mikhail Glinka is often regarded as the father of Russian classical music). He deeply understood the Russian national character and had the talent to express the Russian heroic spirit with his music. Glinka wrote two operas: “Жизнь за царя” (Life for the Tsar) and “Руслан и Людмила” (Ruslan and Ludmila).

The first one, “Life for the Tsar” tells the heroic and tragic death of Ivan Susanin, a peasant who drove the Polish invaders into the swamp to save the Tsar’s life.

In this opera two themes are developed: “Родина моя” (My motherland) and “Славься” (Glory). The theme of “Glory” was played for some time after the collapse of the Soviet Union as the anthem of the Russian Federation.

The second opera “Ruslan and Ludmila” is an epic tale. Glinka himself called it “большая волшебная опера” (a big fairy tale opera). It is based on one of Pushkin’s fairy tale, with whom Glinka was familiar.

He wrote beautiful songs from the poems of the great poet. One of the most popular “Я помню чудное мгновенье” (I remember a wonderful moment), is well known from classical music lovers. Alexander Pushkin’s poem was dedicated to Anna Kern, and few years later, Glinka, charmed by her daughter, wrote the music for this poem. This is how the song was born.

Glinka is the creator of Russian Symphony, and though he himself never wrote symphonies, his followers, including Tchaikovsky, used his musical ideas for their works.

Glinka travelled and studied abroad, and was familiar with Western composers. He knew Gluck, Mozart and Rossini. He could speak six languages, making it easier to communicate with many Western musicians.

In 1856 he went to Berlin to study the polyphony of Bach and Handel, planning to write a sample of the Russian polyphony, but in February 1857, he suddenly died following a bad cold. The world has lost a great musician. But his music is still alive.

Елена Буланова