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ClassicsOnline Home » LIADOV: Piano Miniatures
Liadov (1855 -1914)
Liadov was born into a musical family. His grandfather had been a musician and
his father was, for eighteen years, until 1868, conductor at the Maryinsky
Theatre in St. Petersburg, where his son was born in 1855.
brothers, Anton and Nikolay, had established conservatories of music in St.
Petersburg and Moscow in the 1860s. In this necessary venture they were opposed
by the nationalist composers grouped round Balakirev and advised by the
polymath Stasov. Anton had, with some justification, criticised the amateurism
of the group, while Stasov, on the other hand, feared the professional
regimentation of German-style conservatories.
Liadov learned music
first from his father but was to benefit from the initiative of the
Rubinsteins, entering the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1870. His early
studies in piano and violin were soon replaced by lessons in counterpoint from
Johannsen and in composition from Rimsky-Korsakov, although the latter were cut
short when he was expelled from the class for unexcused absences. He resumed
his study of composition in 1878 and graduated the following year with a
setting of part of Schiller's Bride of Messina.
After the completion
of his studies, Liadov was employed at the Conservatory as a teacher of
elementary theory, later taking over the classes in counterpoint. He resigned
in 1905 at the time of Rimsky-Korsakov's dismissal, after the student
disturbances of that year, with which Rimsky-Korsakov had expressed some
sympathy. He resumed his position when Rimsky-Korsakov was reinstated, with
Glazunov replacing the former director.
Even as a boy of
eighteen Liadov had made an impression on Mussorgsky, who described him as a
new and unmistakably Russian talent and he collaborated with other members of
the Mighty Handful of nationalist composers, the Five, in a light-hearted set
of variations, Parafrazi, on a commonplace theme, a contribution that delighted
Liszt, who used it as a demonstration piece for his pupils.
At first Liadov had
received encouragement from Balakirev, then emerging from a period of silence,
but still inspired by an uncomfortable religious zeal. In the 1880s, however,
he became one of the first to join the circle of musicians assembled by
Belyayev, serving as adviser on the publications that the latter paid for and
sharing the responsibility for the concern with Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov
after Belyayev's death in 1904. The association with Belyayev brought the
inevitable hostility of Balakirev, who saw the activities of Belyayev as an
intrusion on his own territory.
As a composer Liadov
was less hard-working than he might have been. His tendency to procrastination
was seen in his failure to provide music for Dyagilev's planned and advertised
ballet The Firebird, a failure that gave Stravinsky his first important
opportunity. Asked by Dyagilev how his work on the score was progressing,
Liadov is said to have replied that matters were well in hand and that he had
just bought some ruled paper. Dyagilev was to make use of some of Liadov's
music after the latter's death in 1914, and much that he wrote seemed
particularly well suited to the ballet. A group of pieces were used by Massine
for his ballet Russian Fairy-tales in 1917.
Liadov was a talented
pianist and during the course of his life he wrote a number of piano pieces.
Short pieces of this kind suited his talent and his inclinations very well,
since here, with limited exertion, he was able to show his mastery of form and expression
in miniature. Among the first of these pieces was the set of 14 short
miniatures under the title Birywlki or Spillikins, composed in
1876, while he was student at St. Petersburg Conservatory. In the same year he
began a set of six pieces, completed in 1877, and including three Mazurkas,
while 1878 brought a set of four pieces under the title Arabesques, with two
further Mazurkas in the set of pieces of 1884 that form Opus 10. In Opus 11, a
group of three pieces, came further Mazurkas, preceded by a Prelude.
Kukolki (‘Marionettes’), Opus 29, was written in 1892,
another example of Liadov's gift for miniatures in the manner of some Russian
Schumann or Chopin. Opus 40, written in 1897, consisted of an Etude and three
The F sharp major Barcarolle
of Opus 44 was written in 1898, while the Variations on a Polish Song, Opus 51,
written in 1901, are characteristic of the composer's use of an existing melody
as the basis of composition. Opus 64, written in 1909 and 1910, consists of
four pieces, Grimace, Sumrak (‘Tenèbres’), Iskusheniye
(‘Temptation’) and Vospominaniye (‘Reminiscences’), suggesting an
awareness of the work of composers like Skryabin in its extensions of
traditional harmonic practice.
Monique Duphil studied
in Paris at the Conservatoire National Supérieur with Marguerite Long, Jean
Doyen and Joseph Calvet, winning the Premier Prix in piano at the age of 15 and
completing her studies there the following year with the chamber music Grand
Prix. She undertook further study in Germany with Vladimir Horbowski and won
prizes in four international competitions, including the Warsaw Chopin
Competition, before embarking on a career that has taken her to more than fifty
countries. She has appeared as a soloist with major orchestras that include the
Cleveland, Philadelphia, Warsaw, Bern, Mexico State, Tokyo Metropolitan,
Bavarian Radio, Sydney and New Zealand orchestras, under conductors of the
distinction of Ormandy, Markevich, Dutoit, Maxim Shostakovich and Sanderling.
As a chamber music player she has appeared with Szeryng, Ricci, Rampal,
Fournier, and on many occasions in partnership with her husband, the cellist
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LIADOV: Piano Miniatures