George W. Chadwick and Symphonic Sketches


George Whitefield Chadwick (November 13, 1854 – April 4, 1931) was an American composer, teacher, conductor, and organist, who, along with John Knowles Paine Horatio Parker, Amy Beach, Arthur Foote, and Edward MacDowell, a group of other composers collectively known as the Boston Six, was a representative composer of what can be called the New England School of American composers of the late nineteenth century, the generation before Charles Ives.   Born in a rural part of Lowell, MA, on November 13, 1854, Chadwick received some early musical training from organ lessons given by his older brother, Fitz Henry. He developed an independent, self-reliant character early in his life. By the time he was 15, Chadwick was already active as an organist.  Dropping out of high school in 1871, Chadwick assisted briefly as a clerk in his father’s insurance business. The experience enabled him to travel to Boston and other cities, where he attended concerts and cultural events that might have initiated his lifelong interest in the arts.  As a young man Chadwick heard the première of Paine’s First Symphony and was inspired with the idea that an American could compose symphonies.

Chadwick entered New England Conservatory (NEC) as a “special student” in 1872, where he could study with the faculty without satisfying the rigorous entrance or degree requirements. However, he approached his studies more seriously and took advantage of what NEC offered. Chadwick studied organ with George E. Whiting (1840–1923), piano with Carlyle Petersilea (1844–1903), and theory with Stephen A. Emery (1841–1891), each of whom was well respected in the Boston music scene.  He also pursued studies with Dudley Buck and Eugene Thayer.  In 1876, Chadwick accepted a faculty position within the music program at Olivet College in Michigan and was a valued instructor as well as administrator. While at Olivet, Chadwick founded the Music Teachers National Association. The first evidence of his interest in composing appeared during this time, from a performance of his Canon in E-flat dated November 6, 1876.

Realizing that his musical career in the U.S. would be limited without further studies in Europe, in 1877 Chadwick headed to Germany like many other composers of his generation. He studied in Leipzig at the Royal Conservatory of Music under Carl Reinecke (1824–1910) and Salomon Jadassohn (1830–1902). Chadwick’s most significant compositions as a student there include two string quartets (no. 1 1877-8, no. 2 premiered 1879) and the concert overture Rip Van Winkle, set around Washington Irving’s tale of the same name.  They helped confirm his position as a promising young American composer among his German contemporaries, from whom he received favorable critiques.  After his two-year stay in Leipzig, Chadwick traveled around Europe with a group of artists who called themselves the “Duveneck Boys.”  They were led by the young and charismatic Frank Duveneck, who was well known for his portrait works in the style of Velázquez. The group was based in Munich, then a major culture center second to Paris. Chadwick also stayed in France with the group, where he was taken with the French lifestyle and influenced by the emerging Impressionist movement.

Chadwick resumed his compositional studies with Josef Rheinberger (1839–1901) at the Hochschule für Musik in Munich. Rheinberger was known as a skilled musical craftsman who incorporated polyphony with creativity and clarity. Thus Chadwick benefited from Rheinberger’s extensive knowledge of the classics, both instrumental and choral.  Chadwick returned to Boston in March of 1880 and soon began establishing a career in the U.S. He opened a private teaching studio which included students such as Horatio Parker, Sidney Homer, and Arthur Whiting, and secured two performances of Rip Van Winkle. Chadwick also completed his Symphony No. 1 in C major, which although not particularly inspired was a significant early contribution by an American composer. The First Symphony, Symphony No. 2 in B-flat major, and Symphony in F (No. 3) all followed the four-movement outline, model after composers like Ludwig van Beethoven, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, and Antonín Dvořák. Nonetheless, the Second and Third Symphonies exhibit original aspects such as pentatonic scales, along with the Scots-Irish folk style in the Second Symphony.

During this time, Chadwick’s works were being frequently performed by notable Boston ensembles including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Handel and Haydn Society, and the Harvard Musical Association. Chadwick also frequently composed for local choral organizations. From 1883 to 1893, Chadwick also served as church organist at the South Congregational Church in Boston, of which Edward Everett Hale was the minister. In addition, from 1880 to 1899 he conducted the musical festivals at  Springfield, MA, and from 1897 to 1901 those at Worcester, MA.  In 1892, Chadwick was commissioned to compose an ode for the opening ceremonies of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Two years later, Chadwick’s third symphony was awarded a prize by the National Conservatory of Music, during the directorship of Dvorák. In 1897 Yale University conferred on him the honorary degree of A.M.

Chadwick’s important early overtures are the comedy overture Thalia (1883), after the Muse of comedy, imitative of Mendelssohn’s light and lively style; Melpomene (1887), after the Muse of tragedy, a rich and lush work reminiscent of Wagner; and Euterpe (1903) after the Muse of music.  A choral/orchestral piece, The Lily Nymph, presents a mixture of techniques borrowed from Mendelssohn and Impressionism.  In addition to his compositional activities, Chadwick was also a performing organist and avid conductor. He served as the Music Director of the Springfield Festival from 1890 to 1899, and of the Worcester Music Festival from 1899 to 1901.  The Third String Quartet (1882?-1886) displays more mastery in instrumentation. The Quintet for Piano and Strings is a lyrical work that show a melodic gift despite some awkward moments.  Chadwick’s first work for the theatre was The Peer and the Pauper, an imitation of Gilbert and Sullivan operas which were then popular in the U.S. His “burlesque opera” Tabasco was an outlet for his own wry wit, featuring a humorous plot, comically named characters, and popular-style music. It opened in New York in 1894 and toured the United States for a year.

During his Americanism/Modernism Period, 1895–1909, Chadwick asserted his own musical style more than previously, as in the concert overture Adonais. He further delved into the symphonic genre with his Symphonic Sketches, Sinfonietta, and Suite Symphonique. His Fourth String Quartet, composed around the same time as Antonín Dvořák’s String Quartet in F (op. 96, “American”), displays a more American folk style than his Fifth String Quartet, with catchy tunes and pentatonic third-movement fiddle melodies.  Chadwick composed more stage works, notably Judith, based on the tale from the Aprocrypha. The piece is melodic and exotic, much like Camille Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Delilah. In his Ecce jam noctis for chorus and orchestra composed for Yale University’s 1897 commencement ceremony, Chadwick weaved in rhythmic twists like triple-meter strings against the static and homophonical chorus. Lochinvar is another distinctive choral piece with a Celtic flavor, featuring a baritone voice with a violin solo just before the “Introduction of Strathspey” section.

In 1897, Chadwick was appointed Director of New England Conservatory, a position he held until 1930, and also published Harmony, a music theory text, in which he was the first theorist to combine the Roman-numeral analysis of Gottfried Weber with the old figured bass symbols, to create an “absolute” system which shows the chord root and the inversion in a single symbol.  Known in the Boston arts circle as talented, personable, and energetic, he was crucial in transforming NEC into a respectable school of music. Chadwick implemented features that resembled those of the German conservatories of his experience. He established a variety of performing ensembles, and students were required to take more music theory and history classes. He also invited members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra as private teachers to the students, along with being an inspiring teacher himself. His students described him as “demanding, though fair-minded and witty.”  Among his pupils were William Grant Still, Wallace Goodrich, Frederick S. Converse, and Henry K. Hadley.  Chadwick had some influence in the establishment of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity, which was established at the conservatory in the fall of 1898, primarily through the recommendation of the name “Sinfonia” after a student organization to which he belonged in Leipzig. He was named an honorary member of the Alpha Chapter at the conservatory, and was later named a national honorary member of the Fraternity in 1909.

Beginning around 1910, Chadwick shifted from overtures and symphonies to a more dramatic and programmatic style. At this point, he was more interested in musical effects than in form and construction.  His two representative works are the tone poems Aphrodite and Tam O’Shanter, based on the tale by Robert Burns, both for large orchestra. Chadwick’s most important stage work from this period is The Padrone, based on the realistic plight of Italian immigrants in the North End of Boston.  It has a distinctive verismo style.  He wrote a number of patriotic songs during World War I, including These to the Front, The Fighting Men, and perhaps his best known, Land of Our Hearts, first performed in the Norfolk Festival in June 1918, featuring a fluid syllabic setting of a poem by John Hall Ingram.

By 1919, Chadwick was a highly regarded elder musician who was no longer writing as the energetically creative artist. During the last decade of his life, Chadwick’s compositional output declined, most likely due to periods of ill health.  The Anniversary Overture to celebrate his 25th anniversary as the director of New England Conservatory was considered “scholarly” but warm and congenial. His output significantly declined during these years, and he was more of a musical administrator and socialite among the elite Bostonians. He remained well respected until his death on April 4, 1931, at his home in Boston, after which his works became more obscure but nonetheless considered important contributions to the American music repertoire. Chadwick’s works, composed in almost every genre, are influenced by the Realist movement in the arts, characterized by a down-to-earth depiction of people’s lives. Many consider his music to portray a distinctively American style. His works included chamber music, several operas, three symphonies, five string quartets, tone poems, incidental music, songs, and choral anthems.  Chadwick was one of those responsible for the first significant body of concert music by composers from the United States.

My collection includes the following works by George W. Chadwick:
Angel of Death (1918).

Aphrodite (1911).

Euterpe, an overture (1903).

Melpomene, a prelude to an imaginary tragedy (1887).

Symphonic Sketches.

Thalia, an overture (1883).

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

Elliot Carter and his Clarinet Concerto


Elliott Cook Carter Jr. (December 11, 1908 – November 5, 2012) was an internationally recognized American composer who studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris in the 1930s and was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize, in 1960 for his String Quartet No. 2 and in 1973 for his String Quartet No. 3.   He was born in Manhattan, NY, on December 11, 1908, the son of a wealthy lace importer, Elliott Carter Sr. and his his wife, the former Florence Chambers. As a teenager, Elliot Jr. developed an interest in music, and received encouragement in this regard from Charles Ives, who sold insurance to Carter’s family. While he was a student at the Horace Mann School, he wrote an admiring letter to Ives, who responded and urged him to pursue his interest in music. In 1924, a fifteen-year-old Carter was in the audience when Pierre Monteux conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) in the New York première of The Rite of Spring,

When Carter attended Harvard, starting in 1927, Ives took him under his wing and made sure he went to the BSO concerts conducted by Serge Koussevitzky, who programmed contemporary works frequently. Although Carter majored in English at Harvard College, he also studied music there and at the nearby Longy School of Music. His professors at Harvard included Walter Piston and Gustav Holst. He sang with the Harvard Glee Club and did graduate work in music at Harvard, from which he received a master’s degree in music in 1932. He then went to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger, as did many other American composers, at the École Normale de Musique de Paris. Carter worked with Boulanger from 1932 to 1935, and in the latter year received a doctorate in music (Mus.D.). Later that same year, he returned to the US and wrote music for the Ballet Caravan.

On July 6, 1939, Carter married Helen Frost-Jones. They had one child, a son, David Chambers Carter. He lived with his wife in the same apartment in Greenwich Village from the time they bought it in 1945 to her death in 2003.  From 1940 to 1944, he taught in the program, including music, at St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD. He had a strict training in counterpoint, from medieval polyphony to Stravinsky, and this shows in his earliest music, such as the ballet Pocahontas (1938–39). Carter’s earlier works, such as his Symphony No. 1 (1942) and Holiday Overture (1944), are influenced by Stravinsky, Harris, Copland, and Hindemith, and are mainly neoclassical in nature. Some of his music during the Second World War is fairly diatonic, and includes a melodic lyricism reminiscent of Samuel Barber.  During World War II, he worked for the Office of War Information and later held teaching posts at the Peabody Conservatory (1946–1948), Columbia University, Queens College, New York (1955–56), Yale University (1960–62), Cornell University (from 1967) and the Juilliard School (from 1972).

After the Second World War, in works such as his Cello Sonata (1948) and String Quartet No. 1 (1950-51) Carter began to develop a signature rhythmic and harmonic language, which he continued to refine to the very end of his life.   His music after 1950 is typically atonal and rhythmically complex, indicated by the invention of the term metric modulation to describe the frequent, precise tempo changes found in his work. While Carter’s chromaticism and tonal vocabulary parallels serial composers of the period, Carter did not employ serial techniques in his music. Rather he independently developed and cataloged all possible collections of pitches (i.e., all possible three-note chords, five-note chords, etc.). Igor Stravinsky hailed Carter’s Double Concerto for harpsichord, piano, and two chamber orchestras (1961) and Piano Concerto (1967), as “masterpieces.”   In 1967, he was appointed a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters; in 1981, the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize; in 1983 the Edward MacDowell Medal for outstanding contribution to the arts by the MacDowell Colony; and in 1985 the National Medal of Arts.  He was on the faculty of the Tanglewood Music Center, where he gave annual composition master classes.

Carter composed his only opera What Next? in 1997-1998, with a libretto by Paul Griffiths, at the behest of conductor Daniel Barenboim for the Berlin State Opera. The work premiered in Berlin in 1999 and had its first staging in the United States at the Tanglewood Music Festival in 2006 under the baton of James Levine.   On December 11, 2008, Carter celebrated his 100th birthday at Carnegie Hall in New York, where the Boston Symphony Orchestra and pianist Daniel Barenboim played his Interventions for Piano and Orchestra written that year. Between the ages of 90 and 100 he published more than 40 works, and after his 100th birthday he composed at least 20 more.  On February 7, 2009, he was given the Trustees Award, a lifetime achievement award given to non-performers, by the Grammy Awards.  In June 2012, the French government named him a Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur.

A leading figure of modernism in the 20th and 21st centuries, Carter’s prolific career spanned over 75 years, with more than 150 compositions, often marked with a sense of wit and humor, which are known and performed throughout the world; they include orchestral, chamber music, solo instrumental, and vocal works. He was extremely productive in his later years, publishing more than forty works between the ages of 90 and 100, and over twenty more after he turned 100 in 2008.  Carter’s last completed orchestral work, Instances (2012), was premiered by the Seattle Symphony in February 2013.  He completed his final last work, Epigrams for piano trio, on August 13, 2012, and it was premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival in June of 2013.  Carter died of natural causes on November 5, 2012 at his home in New York City, NY, at age 103.

The following works by Elliot Carter are contained in my collection:
Clarinet Concerto (1996).

Symphonia: Sum Fluxae Pretium Spei (1996).

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

California home school interest surges

Parents look to sidestep vaccine law

(London Guardian)

With the passage of a new law this summer mandating vaccines for schoolkids in California, home school advocates and organizations say they are seeing surging interest in off-campus education options that would exempt them from the requirement.

“The word on the streets is that, yes, people are coming to home schooling,” said Sarah Ford, membership director for Sonoma County Homeschoolers Nonprofit in northern California.

The controversial mandate, co-authored by state Senator Richard Pan, a pediatrician backed by the California Medical Association, requires any student in public or private school to have 10 vaccinations as an attendance requirement, with some exceptions for medical conditions.

Read more:

New Testament Stories from Biblical Homeschooling, 8/2015

August, 2015

New Testament Stories My Daddy Told Me


By Wayne S. Walker

     Following the uproar in Ephesus, Paul met with the disciples and then departed for Macedonia, which is in northern Greece.  After encouraging the brethren in that region, he came to southern Greece, also known as Achaia, where he spent three months.  From there he evidently planned to sail for Syria and ultimately Jerusalem, but learning that some Jews were plotting against him, he decided to return through Macedonia.  Several men accompanied him, including Sopater of Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus of Thessalonica, Gaius of Derbe, Timothy of Lystra, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia.  Apparently, they were all carrying gifts from churches in their respective areas for needy saints in Judea and went ahead to Troas where they waited for Paul.

Paul and at least Luke sailed from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread and in five days joined the others at Troas, where they all stayed seven days.  Why did they wait for seven days when Luke later made it clear that they were hurrying towards Jerusalem?  The answer may be contained in the fact that the disciples came together on the first day of the week to break bread or eat the Lord’s supper.  The most reasonable conclusion is that Paul and his company must have arrived in Troas on what we call Monday and remained there for seven days so they could assemble with the church on the first day of the week to break bread with them.

Paul was planning to leave the next day, but he spoke to the disciples until midnight.  They were meeting in an upper room that was lit by many lamps.  A young man named Eutychus was sitting in a window and sank into a deep sleep.  As Paul continued speaking, the young man fell out of the window down three stories and was taken up dead.  However, Paul went down, fell on him, embraced him, and said, “Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.”  Everyone came back up, ate some food, and talked a while longer, even till daybreak.  Then Paul and his group departed, leaving the saints in Troas happy that Eutychus was still alive.

Everyone else in Paul’s company got on the ship and sailed to Assos as Paul requested, but he himself walked.  When he joined them at Assos, they took him on board and sailed to Mitylene.  They sailed from there, the next day passed opposite Chios, the following day arrived at Samos, and spent the night in Trogyllium.  Then the day after that, they came to Miletus.  Paul had decided not to go into Ephesus or spend any time in Asia because he wanted to make it to Jerusalem before the Day of Pentecost if possible.  Yet, he also wanted to see the elders of the church in Ephesus, so he called them to come and meet him at Miletus.


  1. How long did Paul spend in southern Greece?
  2. Why did he change his mind about sailing directly from there to Syria?
  3. For what likely purpose did several men travel with Paul?
  4. How long did Paul and his company stay in Troas?
  5. What did the disciples in Troas do on the first day of the week?
  6. Until what time did Paul speak to the disciples?
  7. What did a young man named Eutychus do?
  8. What did Paul do for him?
  9. How did Paul travel to Assos?
  10. Why did Paul decide not to go to Ephesus or spend time in Asia?

Joseph Canteloube and Chants d’Auvergne (Songs of the Auvergne)


Marie-Joseph Canteloube de Malaret (October 21, 1879–November 4, 1957) was a French composer, pianist, musicologist, and author best known for his collections of orchestrated folksongs from the Auvergne region, Chants d’Auvergne.  Born on October 21, 1879 at Annonay, Ardèche, France, into a family with deep roots in the Auvergne region of France, he studied piano from the age of six with Amélie Doetzer, a friend of Frédéric Chopin. After earning his baccalauréat, he worked at a bank in Bordeaux. He returned to his family home in Malaret (Annonay) upon his father’s death in 1896, remaining there until his mother’s death in 1899 and then beyond as sole owner of the estate. After a period of silence and mourning, Canteloube married Charlotte Marthe Calaret in 1901, and she gave birth to twins Pierre and Guy in 1903.

Canteloube began studying with Vincent d’Indy via correspondence in 1901, reluctant to leave Malaret. Upon d’Indy’s constant urging, he finally entered the Schola Cantorum in 1907 in Paris, were he remained until the beginning of World War I in 1914. At the Schola, he became close friends with fellow composer and student Déodat de Séverac.  In 1907, Canteloube wrote a suite entitled Dans la montagne for piano and violin in four movements that was played at the Société Nationale. Other significant works followed, including Colloque sentimental for voice and string quartet (1908); Eglogue d’Automne for orchestra (1910); Vers la Princesse lointaine, a symphonic poem (1912); Aù printemps for voice and orchestra; and L’Arada (The Earth), a song cycle of six mélodies (1922).

Canteloube composed his first opera, Le mas (“The Farmstead” in Occitan language), to his own libretto from 1910 to 1925 (its composition delayed during war years). The three act work won the Prix Heugel in 1925, and was awarded the prize of 100,000 Francs. However, the reaction to this composition by the leaders of the Opéra-Comique in Paris was far less enthusiastic than the jury. After pressure from the publisher, it finally premiered on April 3, 1929, but it was never revived. In 1925, Canteloube founded a group called La Bourrée with several young Auvergnats in Paris who were eager to publicize the folklore and the beauty of their home region.  Vercingétorix, his second opera, in four acts, was inspired by a libretto by Étienne Clémentel, mayor of Riom (Puy-de-Dôme) and Hervé Louwyck on the Gauls’ defeat by Julius Caesar. The Paris Opéra gave the first performance on June 22, 1933, but it was accused of lacking theatricality.

In 1941, Canteloube joined the government in Vichy France during the Nazi occupation, and wrote in the monarchist newspaper Action Française. He participated in numerous radio broadcasts of French folklore with his “Songs of France” with the tenor Christian Selva. The radio was an ideal vehicle for disseminating regional popular music.  Alongside his career as a composer, Canteloube worked as a musicologist, collecting traditional French folksongs, which were published by Didier and Heugel. He composed several song collections, which include Chants de Haute-Auvergne, albums of songs of Rouergue, Limousin, and Quercy, regional religious songs (Chants religieux d’Auvergne), and L’Hymne des Gaules based on a poem by Philius Lebesque, serving as editor of the Anthologie des chants populaires français (1939-1944).

Canteloube also participated in the creation of the Bardic College of Gaul and wrote biographies of Vincent d’Indy (1949) and of his friend Déodat de Séverac (1950).  He took more than thirty years (1924 to 1955) to complete the compilation of his most admired and famous collection of songs, Chants d’Auvergne, four sets of folk songs for voice and piano or orchestra, widely enjoyed for their color, naturalistic beauty, and charm. Passionate, sometimes to excess, the songs reflect the landscapes of the Auvergne in lush orchestral colors and have enabled French folklore and rustic melodies to become better known.  He was active as a composer into the 1950s and died in Grigny, Essonne, on November 4, 1957, aged 78.

My collection includes the following work by Joseph Canteloube:
Chants d’Auvergne (1955): Selections.

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

Monthly Meditation from August, 2015, “Biblical Homeschooling”

August, 2015

Monthly Meditation


by Wayne S. Walker

     “All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O LORD, when they hear the words of Your mouth’ (Psalm 138:4).  While we understand that God’s greatest gift to mankind involves salvation through Jesus Christ, we know that His plan for our lives here on this earth also includes civil government for our well being.  He rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will (Daniel 4:32).  Therefore, everyone, Christians and unbelievers alike, should be subject to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1-4).  The fact that “the authorities that exist are appointed by God” does not necessarily mean that God approves of every government and everything that any government does.  He simply has ordained that there be civil government.

God certainly did not approve of the persecution of Christians by the Roman government, and the book of Revelation even announces God’s judgment upon the Roman empire for its evil.  Yet, this was the very government in power when Paul said, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.”  Thus, we can and indeed must be subject to properly constituted authority even when we disagree with some of its actions.  Yet, there is a big difference between a government founded upon God’s standards and one founded upon ungodliness.  In the early days of our country, the vast majority of our founding fathers were very religious men who publicly upheld the traditional Judaeo-Christian standard of morality because they knew that it was good for society.  No one thought this odd or out of place.

Today, however, when people, including those in government, try to follow God’s standards in their civic affairs, such as in opposing abortion and homosexual marriage, they are accused of trying to establish a “theocracy,” of pushing their religious beliefs off on others, and of violating the “separation of church and state.”  However, these charges are made only against those who follow “conservative religious” beliefs, never of those who adhere to “liberal religious” beliefs (and believe me, support for abortion and homosexual marriage are truly “religious beliefs” with the liberals) and try to force their religious beliefs on others.  Christians should not be cowed or driven away from their support, political and otherwise, for God’s standards by this type of argument, because it is still true that “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).

God’s people always fare better, and most likely feel better, when those in authority at least show a respect for the principles of righteousness and morality that God has given to mankind.  We like to see “all the kings of the earth” praising the Lord and striving to do His will.  However, we understand that this will not always be the case.  History is littered with rulers who were genuinely evil.  And even today we see government officials who seem bent on promoting something sinful or ungodly.  Yet, we also know that someday God will make it right, when, as He says, “Every knee shall bow to me [including those rulers who have ignored His will, WSW], and every tongue shall confess to God” (Romans 14:11).  Yes, we would prefer to see them do it here and now, but we must let God take care of it in His own good time and way while we continue to do what we can to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16).

Cesar Cui and his Berceuse for Violin and Strings


César Antonovich Cui (January 18, 1835–March 13, 1918) was a Russian composer and music critic of French and Lithuanian descent whose profession was as an army officer rising to the rank of Engineer-General in The Russian Imperial Army and a teacher of fortifications, but whose avocational life has particular significance in the history of music as a member of The Five, a group of Russian composers under the leadership of Mily Balakirev dedicated to the production of a specifically Russian type of music.   Cesarius-Benjaminus Cui was born on January 18, 1835, in Vilnius, Vilna Governorate, Russian Empire, now Vilnius, Lithuania, to a Roman Catholic family, the youngest of five children. His French father Antoine (his name was later Russified as Anton Leonardovich), had entered Russia as a member of Napoleon’s army in 1812, settled in Vilnius upon their defeat, became a teacher, and married a local woman named Julia Gucewicz.   Their other sons were Alexander, Napoleon, and Boleslav.  Their daughter was Marianna.

The young César grew up learning French, Russian, Polish and Lithuanian.  Before finishing the local gymnasium school, in 1850 Cui was sent to Saint Petersburg to prepare to enter the Chief Engineering School, which he did the next year at age sixteen. In 1855 he was graduated from the Academy, and after advanced studies at the Nikolaevsky Engineering Academy, now the Military Engineering-Technical University, he began his military career in 1857 as an instructor in fortifications.  His students over the decades included several members of the Imperial family, most notably Nicolas II. Cui eventually ended up teaching at three of the military academies in Saint Petersburg.  His study of fortifications gained from frontline assignment during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 proved quite important for his career. As an expert on military fortifications, Cui eventually attained the academic status of professor in 1880 and the military rank of general in 1906.His writings on fortifications included textbooks that were widely used, in several successive editions.

Despite his achievements as a professional military academic, Cui is best known in the West for his “other” life in music. As a boy in Vilnius he received piano lessons, studied Chopin’s works, and began composing little pieces at fourteen years of age. He was not, apparently, a child prodigy. His sister started his music lessons; then his father sent him to a violinist named Dio to learn music. In the few months before he was sent to Petersburg, he managed to have some lessons in music theory with the Polish composer Stanisław Moniuszko, who was residing in Vilnius at the time.  Cui’s musical direction changed in 1856, when he met Mily Balakirev and began to be more seriously involved with music.  Even though he was composing music and writing music criticism in his spare time, Cui turned out to be an extremely prolific composer. Cui married Mal’vina Rafailovna Bamberg, one of Dargomyzhsky’s singing pupils, in 1858.  His public “debut” as a composer occurred 1859 with the performance of his orchestral Scherzo, Op. 1, under the baton of Anton Rubinstein and the auspices of the Russian Musical Society. Cui’s first opera was A Prisoner in the Caucasus with a libretto based on Pushkin.

In 1869 the first public performance of an opera by Cui took place; this was his William Ratcliff based on the tragedy by Heinrich Heine; but it did not ultimately have success.  In the early 1870s Cui wrote the first act for the collective (and aborted) project Mlada (later composed completely by Rimsky-Korsakov).  His next-performed opera, Angelo, premiered 1876, was revived around 1900. All but one of his operas were composed to Russian texts; the one exception, Le flibustier, based on a play by Jean Richepin, premiered at the Opéra-Comique in Paris in 1894, but it did not succeed either.  Cui’s more successful stage works during his lifetime were the one-act comic opera The Mandarin’s Son, publicly premiered in 1878; the three-act Prisoner of the Caucasus (1883), based on Pushkin; and the one-act Mademoiselle Fifi (1903), based on Guy de Maupassant.[18] Besides Flibustier, the only other operas by Cui performed in his lifetime outside of the Russian Empire were Prisoner of the Caucasus (in Liège, 1886) and the children’s opera Puss in Boots (in Rome, 1915).

Cui’s activities in musical life included also membership on the opera selection committee at the Mariinsky Theatre; this stint ended in 1883, when both he and Rimsky-Korsakov left the committee in protest of its rejection of Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina. During 1896-1904 he was director of the Petersburg branch of the Russian Musical Society.  Among the many musicians Cui knew in his life, Franz Liszt looms large. In Cui’s long and active musical life as Cui’s there were many accolades. In the late 1880s and early 1890s several foreign musical societies honored Cui with memberships. Shortly after the staging of Le flibustier in Paris, Cui was elected as a correspondent member of the Académie française and awarded the cross of the Légion d’honneur. In 1896 the Belgian Royal Academy of Literature and Art made him a member.  In 1909 and 1910 events were held in honor of Cui’s 50th anniversary as a composer.

César and Mal’vina had two children, Lidiya and Aleksandr. Lidiya, an amateur singer, married and had a son named Yuri Borisovich Amoretti; in the period before the October Revolution Aleksandr was a member of the Russian Senate.  Cui’s last large opera, The Captain’s Daughter, probably employs as much truly Russian-style music as Cui could ever hope to achieve. In 1916, the composer went blind, although he was able to compose small pieces by dictation.  Cui died on March 13, 1918, from cerebral apoplexy and was buried next to his wife Mal’vina, who had died in 1899, at the Smolensk Lutheran Cemetery in Saint Petersburg. In 1939, his body was reinterred in Tikhvin Cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, Saint Petersburg, to lie beside the other members of The Five.

Cesar Cui has the dubious honor of being the least known of  that circle of composers known as “the Mighty Five,” begun in the mid 1850s in St. Petersburg and headed by Balakirev.  He completed some fourteen operas, including four children’s operas and several one-act “adult” operas; he also made the first completed version of Musorgsky’s Fair at Sorochinsk (1917).  In addition je wrote several hundred songs in Russian, French, Polish, and German, many piano pieces and chamber works, including 3 string quartets, several orchestral works, mostly light music — suites, waltzes, scherzos, and many choral works, including a cantata for the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty (1913). The war years (i.e. the Russo-Japanese War, ca. 1905, and WWI) inspired a number of works by Cui, mostly songs and a military march for band. There is even some religious music: three psalms, a couple of Ave Marias, and an Orthodox setting of the Magnificat.  But he is best known as a miniaturist in songs and piano music such as his “Orientale” (op. 50, no. 9) originally for violin and piano.

The following work by Cesar Cui is contained in my collection:

Berceuse for Violin and Strings.

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources