Mikhail Gnesin

Gnesin, Mikhail Fabianovich

 

Born Jan. 21 (Feb. 2), 1883, in Rostov-on-Don; died May 5, 1957, in Moscow. Soviet composer, teacher, musical figure. Honored Art Worker of the RSFSR (1927); doctor of the arts (1943).

Gnesin studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory from 1901 to 1909 under N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov, A. K. Liadov, and A.K. Glazunov. In 1905 he was temporarily expelled from the conservatory for participating in the student strike movement. After 1908 he taught music in workers’ circles in St. Petersburg and the provinces and taught theory in the music schools of Ekaterinodar (Krasnodar) and Rostov-on-Don. From the early 1920’s he participated actively in the building of socialist culture as head of the music section of the Don Branch of Popular Education and as rector of the Don Conservatory. From 1925 to 1936 he was professor of composition at the Moscow Conservatory; from 1923, a teacher at Gnesin’s School of Music in Moscow; from 1935 to 1944, professor at the Leningrad Conservatory; and from 1944 to 1951, head of the composition department at Gnesin’s Music Pedagogic College in Moscow. His pupils included A. Khachaturian and T. N. Khrennikov.

Gnesin’s early works were connected with the art of symbolism (vocal cycles based on texts by K. D. Bal’mont, F. K. Sologub, and VI. M. Vol’kenshtein, 1907-08). With time his creative work evolved toward a clearer style and a greater use of folklore. Gnesin employed melodies of the different nationalities of the Soviet Union. He was one of the first Soviet composers to incorporate the theme of revolution into orchestral music (Symphonic Monument, 1905-1917, based on the words of S. A. Esenin, 1925). Extended use of lyrical-narrative and philosophical motifs characterize his mature creative work. His works include the opera The Youth of Abraham (1923), the cantata To the Red Army (1943), the symphonic dithyramb Vrubel’ (based on the words of V. Ia. Briusov, 1911), the sextet Adygeia (1933), art songs, including the cycle Tale of Red-headed Motel (based on the words of I. P. Utkin, 1929), settings of folk songs, and music for stage and screen.

Gnesin is the author of the book Basic Course in Applied Composition (1941; second edition, 1962) and of articles in which he championed progressive realistic concepts in artistic creation. He was awarded the State Prize of the USSR (1946) and the Order of the Red Banner of Labor.

REFERENCES

M. F. Gnesin: Stat’i, vospominaniia, materialy. Compiled and edited by R. V. Glezer. Moscow, 1961.
Glezer, R. V. “Muzykant-grazhdanin.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1957, no. 5.
Savshinskii, S. “Vstrecha s Gnesinym.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1963, no. 5.

G. M. TSYPIN

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