Cui, César Antonovich

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Cui, César Antonovich

(tsāzär` äntô`nôvĭch küē`), 1835–1918, Russian composer and critic, a military engineer by profession. As a music critic in St. Petersburg and Paris, he championed the group of nationalist Russian composers known as The FiveFive, The,
name of a group of late 19th-century Russian composers. They were Balakirev, the leader, Cui, Moussorgsky, Borodin, and Rimsky-Korsakov. These men, united by a nationalistic fervor, tried to write music of distinctively Russian character, drawing on the history,
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, consisting of Rimsky-Korsakov, Balakirev, Mussorgsky, Borodin, and himself. Of these, he was the least distinctive composer. He was largely self-taught, and his best works are songs and short salon pieces, which avoid the technical deficiencies of his operas and orchestral music.


See V. I. Seroff, The Mighty Five (1948); M. O. Zetlin, The Five (tr. 1959).

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.