Mili Balakirev

Russian composer (Nizhny Novgorod, 1837 – Saint Petersburg, 1910)

Balakirev was the founder of The Mighty Handful and, today, this Russian composer is known for his work Islamey, for piano solo, and his symphonic poem Tamara, as well as for the oriental themes he cultivated in his works.

Balakirev developed an interest in music very quickly. Since his humble family had very little money, he could only attend a course of ten piano lessons with Alexander Dubuque. Later, he met Alexander Ulybyshev (Oulibicheff) who became his early patron. Ulybyshev, , assigned him to the direction of his orchestra, in addition to other missions. He also met Mikhaïl Glinka, a precursor to Russian classical music, who would then encourage him to play, just like all the other composers of the Mighty Handful, also known as The Five: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexander Borodin, Modest Mussorgsky, César Cui. After a few concerts, he founded a music school in Saint Petersburg and was appointed director of the Imperial Chapel; Rimsky-Korsakov eventually became his assistant.

Balakirev did not compose many works, but he immediately showed an affinity with Glinka's music, since he wanted to promote and give new life to traditional Russian folk music.

6 landmark dates in the life of Balakirev

• 1853: Met Alexander Ulybyshev, who becomes his patron

• 1855: Met Glinka and founds The Five

• 1860s: Spent time in the Caucasus, in direct contact with folk music

• 1862: Founded a music school in Saint Petersburg

• 1882: Completed his Tamara

• 1883: Appointed director of the Imperial Chapel

6 key works by Balakirev

• 1864-1866: Symphony No. 1 in C major

• 1867: Overture on Czech Themes 

• 1867-1882:Tamara, symphonic poem

• 1869: Islamey, “oriental fantasy” for solo piano

• 1884: Russia, symphonic poem

• 1900 -1908: Symphony No. 2 in D minor