Boris Vladimirovich Asafev

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Asaf’ev, Boris Vladimirovich


Born July 17 (29), 1884, in St. Petersburg; died Jan. 27, 1949, in Moscow. Soviet musicologist and composer. Academician of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1943). People’s Artist of the USSR (1946). Born into the family of an office worker. Graduated from the historical-philological department of the University of St. Petersburg (1908) and the St. Petersburg Conservatory (A. K. Liadov’s class in composition; 1910).

In 1910, Asaf’ev became the concertmaster of the Ma-riinskii Theater ballet. In 1914 his musical criticism began to appear regularly in print under the pseudonym of Igor’ Glebov. After the October Revolution he extended his activity in the areas of scientific journalism and music for the public. He was the musical consultant for the Kirov Opera and Ballet Theater and the Leningrad Maly Opera Theater. He participated in the organization of the Leningrad Philharmonic Society. From 1919 to 1930 he worked at the Institute for the History of the Arts in Leningrad; in 1925 he became a professor at the Leningrad Conservatory. In 1943 he moved to Moscow, where he became the director of the scientific research study center of the Moscow Conservatory and also directed the music section of the Institute for the History of the Arts of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. He was chosen chairman of the Union of Composers of the USSR at the First All-Union Congress of Soviet Composers (1948).

Asaf’ev’s activity in the area of musical science was distinguished by the extraordinary breadth of his interests, which included diverse branches of music theory and history. His works on Russian classical music—in particular, on M. I. Glinka, P. I. Tchaikovsky, and M. P. Mussorgsky—are of great value. He devoted much attention to contemporary music as well; his articles on the works of S. S. Prokofiev, N. I. Miaskovskii, D. D. Shostakovich, A. I. Khachaturian, V. I. Shebalin, and the most prominent foreign composers of the 20th century are among the best examples of Soviet music criticism. He was a talented popularizer, and he wrote a number of articles on aspects of the musical world and on aesthetic education for working people. His theory that intonation is the basic expressive and indicative element of music is extremely important for the resolution of the fundamental issue of realist aesthetics: the relationship of music to reality.

Asaf ’ev was a deserving successor to the most distinguished representatives of Russian music criticism, and his work established a new stage in the development of musical science. His ideas have been successfully developed in the works of many contemporary musicologists, Soviet as well as non-Soviet.

His compositions include 28 ballets, 11 operas, music for dramatic works, four symphonies, and a great number of songs and instrumental chamber music pieces. His ballets The Flame of Paris (1932), The Fountain of Bakhchisaray (1934), and The Prisoner of the Caucasus (1938) hold a permanent place in the repertory of the musical theater. He was twice awarded the State Prize of the USSR (1943 and 1948). He was awarded two Orders of Lenin, the Order of the Red Banner of Labor, and medals.


Izbr. trudy, vols. 1–5. Moscow, 1952–1957. (Vol. 5 has a bibliography and notes.)
Izbr. stat’i o muzykal’nom prosveshchenii i obrazovanii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1965.
Kriticheskie stat’i i retsenzii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1967.
Simfonicheskie etiudy. Petrograd, 1922.
P. I. Chaikovskii: Ego zhizn’ i tvorchestvo. Moscow-Petrograd, 1922.
Instrumental’noe tvorchestvo Chaikovskogo. Petrograd, 1922.
Glazunov: Opyt kharakteristiki. Leningrad, 1924.
K vosstanovleniiu “Borisa Godunova” Musorgskogo. Moscow, 1928.
Kniga o Stravinskom. Leningrad, 1929.
Russkaia muzyka ot nachala 19 stoletiia. Moscow-Leningrad, [1930].
“Evgenii Onegin”: Liricheskie stseny P. I. Chaikovskogo. Moscow-Leningrad, 1944.
N. A. Rimskii-Korsakov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1944.
Glinka. Moscow, 1947. [2nd ed.,] Moscow-Leningrad, 1950. Grig. Moscow-Leningrad, 1948.
Muzykal’naia forma kak protsess, books 1–2. Leningrad, 1963.
Rechevaia intonatsiia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1965.


Bogdanov-Berezovskii, V. B. V. Asaf’ev. Leningrad, 1937.
Pamiati akademika B. V. Asaf’eva: Sb. statei o nauchnokritiche-skom nasledii. Moscow-Leninerad. 1951.
Orlova, E. B. V. Asaf’ev: Put’ issledovatelia i publitsista. Leningrad, 1964.
Ryzhkin, I. “Stanovlenie sovetskoi muzykal’noi estetiki (Lunacharskii, AsaPev).” In Iz istorii sovetskoi esteticheskoi mysli. Moscow, 1967. Pages 285–362.
Jiranek, J. Přspevek k teorii a praxi intonacni analyzy. Prague, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.