World Music Exploration 2010/11 Week 16 - The Mighty Five

The Russian national school of music flourished in the 19th century with the nationalist movement. The Mighty Five, a group of young Russian composers set out to "free the Russian soul" in their music. They closed themselves to the influences of European music. The Mighty Five were comprised of Russian composers Mily Balakirev, Alexander Borodin, Cesar Cui, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Modest Mussorgsky.

My students and I are watching a music video of Cesar Cui's Orientale at their music lessons this week. Cui was the least known of the Mighty Five. Cui lived from 1835 - 1893. His father was an officer in Napoleon's army that invaded Russia.

Cui followed his father's footsteps and joined the army. He did study engineering. However, upon meeting the rest of the Mighty Five, his interests turned towards composing and furthering the development of Russian music.

My aural learners have been listening to excerpts of Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky and Scheherezade by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Although Mussorgsky grew up in the upper class, most of his life was spent in poverty. His alcoholism negatively impacted his productivity as a composer.

Like some of the other members of the Mighty Five, Rimsky-Korsakov did his time in the Russian army. He was well recognized for his skills in orchestration and it is his orchestra arrangement of Pictures that my students listened to. It is interesting to note that although The Mighty Five explored ideas from other cultures (a concept known as exoticism), there is still a Russian feel to these works.

Sources: Suite 101: Russia's Mighty Handful Composers Stanford Opera Page The New College Encyclopedia of Music, J.A. Westrup and F.L. Harrison

(c) 2011 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.