César Cui

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Cui, César Antonovich


Born Jan. 6 (18), 1835, in Vilnius; died Mar. 26, 1918, in Petrograd. Russian composer, music critic, military engineer, and scholar; engineer general (1904).

Cui graduated from the Nikolai Engineering Academy (1857) and became an instructor there (adjunct professor from 1878, professor from 1880, and honored professor from 1891).

Cui studied the theory of composition with S. Moniuszko. An important role in his development as a musician was played by his acquaintance with A. S. Dargomyzhskii, M. A. Balakirev, and V. V. Stasov. Cui was a member of the “Russian Five.” He became a music critic in 1864, expounding the principles of realism and folk character in music and championing the works of M. I. Glinka, A. S. Dargomyzhskii, and the young representatives of the “new Russian musical school,” as well as avant-garde innovative trends in foreign music.

While Cui’s opera William Ratcliff (based on H. Heine’s drama, 1869; Mariinskii Theater, St. Petersburg) reflected the progressive aesthetic formulations of the “Russian Five,” it exhibited the romantic conventionality and stiltedness that continued to characterize his later works. The composer’s creative legacy is extensive. It consists of 14 operas, including The Mandarin’s Son (1859), Angelo (based on the V. Hugo play, 1875), The Saracen (based on a play by A. Dumas père, 1898), and The Captain’s Daughter (based on the A. S. Pushkin novella, 1909); four children’s operas; works for orchestra, chamber instrumental ensembles, piano, violin, and cello; and choruses and vocal ensembles.

Cui’s most interesting works are the art songs (more than 250), characterized by lyric expressiveness, elegance, and subtle vocal declamation. “The Burned Letter,” “The Statue in Isarskoe Selo” (text by Pushkin), and “The Aeolian Harps” (text by A. N. Maikov) are among the most popular. Cui continued his systematic musical and critical activities until the beginning of the century, but his views became limited and conservative in the late 1870’s.

Cui wrote fundamental scientific works on fortification and created a course on fortification that he taught at the Nikolai Engineering Academy, Mikhail Artillery Academy, and Academy of the General Staff. He was the first Russian military engineer to suggest the use of armored turret emplacements in land fortresses. After the October Revolution of 1917, Cui went over to the side of Soviet power.


Russkii romans: Ocherk ego razvitiia. St. Petersburg, 1896.
“Iz moikh opernykh vospominanii.” Ezhegodnik imperatorskikh teatrov, 1899–1900, 2nd supplement.
“Pervye kompositorskie shagi.” Ezhegodnik imperatorskikh teatrov, 1910, fasc. 1.
Muzykal’no-kriticheskie stat’i, vol. 1. Petrograd, 1918.
Izbr. stat’i. Leningrad, 1952.
Izbr. pis’ma. Leningrad, 1955.
La Musique en Russie. Paris, 1881.
Kratkii uchebnik polevoi fortifikatsii, 6th ed. St. Petersburg, 1892.
Kratkii istoricheskii ocherk dolgovremennoi fortifikatsii, 2nd ed. St. Petersburg, 1889.


Stasov, V. V. Izbr. soch., vol. 3. Moscow, 1952. Pages 387–408.


References in periodicals archive ?
Pianist and academic Kirill Monorosi gave us insight in the editorial process of publishing a previously unknown work discovered as part of his research into the music of Cesar Cui, Louise Devendish talked Australian Contemporary Percussion Music and Dr Tim Nikolsky joined us via Skype to discuss the digital delivery of his Australian Jazz Real Book collection.
They were, in fact, Mily Balakirev, Alexander Borodin, Cesar Cui, Modeste Mussorgsky and Nicolai RimskyKorsakov.
The Japanese violinist Takako Nishsizaki plays rarities from Russia, the Violin Concerto of Anton Rubinstein, and a suite for violin and orchestra by Cesar Cui, while more traditional sounds come from the Novospassky Monastery Choir singing from the Russian Divine Liturgy.
Petersburg Conservatory, Cesar Cui noted that she was the first Russian chamber-music singer.