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Alexander Dargomyzhsky and short orchestral works

     Alexander Sergeyevich Dargomyzhsky (February 14, 1813 – January 17, 1869) was a 19th century Russian composer who was born in Tula Governorate and educated in Saint Petersburg. He was already known as a talented musical amateur when in 1833 he met Mikhail Glinka and was encouraged to devote himself to composition. His opera Esmeralda, based on Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, was composed in 1839  and performed 1847.   His Rusalka was performed in 1856; but he had little success or recognition either at home or abroad until the 1860s, when he became the elder statesman, but not a member, of The Mighty Five, a group of Russian nationalist composers including Mily Balakirev, Nicolai Rimski-Korsakov, Modest Moussorgski, Alexander Borodin, and Cesar Cui.

     Dargomyzhsky’s last opera, The Stone Guest, is his most famous work and is known as a pioneering effort in melodic recitative. With the orchestration and the end of the first scene left incomplete at his death, it was finished by César Cui and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and was much prized by The Five for what they perceived as its progressive approach to operatic expression.  Daargomyzhsky died in Saint Petersburg in 1869, aged 55.  The Stone Guest was premiered posthumously in 1872, but never became a lasting standard operatic repertoire item.

     Dargomyzhsky bridged the gap in Russian opera composition between Mikhail Glinka and the later generation of The Five and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.  He also left some unfinished opera projects, among them an attempted setting of Pushkin’s Poltava, from which a duet survives. Besides operas, his other compositions include numerous songs, piano pieces, and some orchestral works.

     Some of his short orchestral works which are sometimes heard include the following:

                Baba Yaga, or From the Volga Nach Riga, Joke-Fantasia-Scherzo (1862). 

                Bolero (1839)—his first orchestral work.

                Chukhon Fantasia (based on two Finnish melodies, 1867)—his last orchestral work. 

                Kazachok, Fantasia on a Ukrainian Dance Theme of Malorossiisky Kazachok (1864).


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