Varlamov, Aleksandr Egorovich

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Varlamov, Aleksandr Egorovich


Born Nov. 15 (27), 1801, in Moscow; died Oct. 15 (27), 1848, in St. Petersburg. Russian composer.

From the age of ten Varlamov sang and studied in the St. Petersburg Court Choir. Between 1819 and 1823 he taught the singers at the Russian Embassy Church at The Hague. In 1823 he returned to his native land, where he taught singing at educational institutions and in private homes in St. Petersburg and Moscow and performed in concerts as a singer and conductor. From 1832 to 1843 he worked in the Moscow theaters (as assistant choirmaster and “composer of music”). In 1834-35, Varlamov published the popular journal of musical scores entitled Eolova arfa (The Aeolian Harp). In 1840 he issued his Complete School of Singing —the first manual on vocal method to be published in Russian. In the final years of his life (from 1845) he worked on a series of arrangements for voice and piano of Russian and Ukrainian folk songs entitled The Russian Singer (unfinished; 43 songs were published).

The principal sphere of Varlamov’s creative work was that of art songs and songs (about 200). Most of them were based on texts by Russian poets (M. lu. Lermontov, A. V. Kol’tsov, N. G. Tsyganov, A. N. Pleshcheev, and A. A. Fet). Varlamov was one of the most important masters of vocal lyricism during the first half of the 19th century. His art songs and Russian songs were very popular. Varlamov’s popularity was promoted by the stylistic closeness of his music to the genre of the common urban art song, as well as by the composer’s organic transformation of elements of Russian folk music in many of his works. Some of Varlamov’s songs have become folk songs (“The Red Sarafan” and “The Snowstorm”). A very gifted creator of melodies, Varlamov composed works that are marked by great variety and plasticity of vocal themes (“Do Not Wake Her at Dawn,” “The Sail,” “I Love to Gaze Into the Clear Night,” “O Thou, Time, Wretched Time,” and others). Varlamov also composed music for dramatic presentations, including Roslavlev (with A. N. Verstovskii), The Woman With Two Husbands, Ermak, The Forests of Murom, Hamlet, and others; the ballets The Sultan’s Amusements (1834), The Clever Boy and the Ogre (based on C. Perrault’s tale Jack and the Beanstalk and written with A. S. Gur’ianov, 1837); choral works; and vocal ensembles.


Satin, Kh. “Aleksandr Egorovich Varlamov.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1948, no. 8.
Tynianov, E. “Na zare russkogo romansovogo tvorchestva.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1948, no. 8.
Listova, N. A. Aleksandr Varlamov: Ego Zhizn’ i pesennoe tvorchestvo. Moscow, 1968. (Contains a bibliography.)


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