VasilySergeyevich Kalinnikov (1866 -1901)
SymphonyNo.l in G Minor
SymphonyNo.2 in A Major
Vasily SergeyevichKalinnikov was born in 1866 at Voina, in the Oryol District, where Turgenev,Henry James's "beautiful genius", had been born in 1818. The son of apolice official, he was allowed, through the ecclesiastical connections of thefamily, to study at the seminary in Oryol, where he took charge of the choir atthe age of fourteen. In 1884 he went to Moscow as a scholarship student at the Philharmonic Society School, taking lessons on thebassoon and in composition with Alexander Il'yinsky and the self-taught Pavel Blaramberg,a statistician by profession. The poverty of his family which had made itimpossible for him to study at the Conservatory forced him to earn a livingplaying the bassoon, timpani or violin in theatre orchestras and furtherweakened his health, already affected by childhood privations. He was able toprofit, however, from the friendship and teaching of S. N. Kruglikov.
In 1892 Kalinnikov'sfortunes seemed about to take a turn for the better, with his appointment, onthe recommendation of Tchaikovsky, as conductor at the Maliy Theatre in Moscowand the following year by a similar appointment at the Moscow Italian Theatre,but a few months later his deteriorating health compelled him to resign inorder to seek in the relative warmth of the South Crimea a cure for thetuberculosis from which he suffered. He was to remain in Yalta for the rest of hisshort life, completing there his two symphonies, and, among other instrumentalworks, incidental music for the play Tsar Boris by Alexey Tolstoy,staged at the Maliy Theatre in 1899.
Towards the end of hislife Kalinnikov received some financial relief through the good offices ofSergey Rachmaninov, who had visited him in Yalta and been appalled at the conditions in which hefound him living. The latter's intervention with the publisher Jurgensenbrought an immediate sum of 120 roubles for three songs and an offer to publishthe score, parts and piano-duet transcription of the Second Symphony, whichhad its first performance in Kiev in 1898, a year after the first performanceof the First Symphony, which was also heard in Moscow, Vienna andBerlin. Rachmaninov also arranged payment for a piano arrangement of theearlier symphony, but Kalinnikov did not live to benefit from his new agreementwith Jurgensen. He died early in January 1901, before his 35th birthday. Hisdeath induced Jurgensen to offer Kalinnikov's widow an unexpectedly high sumfor the rest of her husband's manuscripts, with the remark that he paid becausethe composer's death had multiplied the value of his works by ten, a sadreflection on commercial reality.
Kalinnikov's SymphonyNo.1 in G minor, written in 1894 and 1895, was first performed at aRussian Music Society concert in Kiev in 1897 under the direction of Vinogradsky. Itwas dedicated to Kruglikov and is generally regarded as representative of thebest of his achievement as a composer, although Rimsky-Korsakov was critical ofthe work on technical grounds not apparent from the later published score. Itsfirst movement, marked Allegro moderato, has an attractive and lyricalprincipal theme of obvious Russian character. This is developed in colourfulorchestration, with contrasting material related to it and with fugal treatmentof the main theme. The slow movement, Andante commodamente, provides animmediate contrast in texture and colour, with orchestration that, as so oftenwith Kalinnikov, suggests Tchaikovsky's skin in the art. A poignant oboe melodyemerges, answered by the strings, swelling to a climax before proceeding to amore lyrical section, in which again the woodwind assumes prominence. Theplaintive oboe melody is heard again, before the movement ends with theserenity with which it had begun. The following Scherzo, even moreRussian in its melodic language; changes the mood of introspection, now apeasant dance, contrasted with the melancholy of the trio section. The finalmovement opens with a reminiscence of w hat has passed, before proceeding to aforthright principal theme, to which thematic material from the first movementand new material offer a contrast. The symphony ends in massive and positivetriumph.
Kalinnikov's SecondSymphony, written between 1895 and 1897, again is conceived in a thoroughlyRussian musical language, skillfully and colourfully orchestrated. The firstmovement opens solemnly, but this solemnity is soon discarded, with furtherthematic material that, as often in Kalinnikov, suggests the Russian ballet, atleast in its colourful orchestration and lyrical elements, although heredeveloped and extended symphonically, with a command of contrapuntal procedurealready evident in the development sections of the earlier symphony. The ebullientconclusion of the movement is followed by an Andante cantabile, with atender melody entrusted to the cor anglais. The music mounts in intensity offeeling, before the expected return of the gentle mood of the opening. The scherzoprovides an immediate contrast, to which the oboe, in a trio section,offers again a change of mood, with a contrapuntal treatment of the thematicmaterial, an element evident in the scherzo sections of the movement.
The finale starts reflectively, but this initial mood of reminiscence is sooninterrupted, for the moment at least, by the Allegro vivo in whichKalinnikov again deploys his skills in orchestration, in counterpoint and inthe invention of varied melodic material that always retains a clear Russiancharacter, leading to a conclusion of the necessary triumphant optimism.