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Ivan Khandoshkin (1747 - 1804)

One of the most remarkable composers in the first century of Russia’s secular musical life, Ivan Evstaf’evich Khandoshkin (1747-1804) is largely unknown to twenty-first century listeners. The first Russian violinist-composer at the Imperial court of St. Petersburg, founded by Peter the Great on the shores of the Neva, Khandoshkin’s reputation had spread to Europe by his death, earning him temporary, if limited, renown.

Tsar Peter III was so much a music lover that when he was forced to cede the throne to his strong-willed wife, Catherine, he reportedly (according to her memoirs) asked only “for his mistress, his dog, his negro, and his violin.” Khandoshkin is believed to have been apprenticed in Peter III’s court orchestra at the age of thirteen, while studying with Tito Porta, an Italian violinist in the ensemble since 1743. Italian players in the orchestra, including the co-concertmasters Domenico dall’Oglio and Pietro Peri, became major influences on Khandoshkin, and when Catherine took the throne, she kept the youth on in the Italian troupe at court. Little is known about his later career, although he is believed to have taught briefly at the newly opened Academy of Arts in 1764,  served as first violinist and court soloist, and been Kapellmeister for ballets.




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