Alexandr Grechaninov (1864-1956)


01Grechaninov Studies Music In Secret20110912Donald Macleod focuses on Grechaninov's early years battling against poverty.

Grechaninov composed over one thousand works, and his life spanned nearly an entire century, and almost spanned the globe from Russia, travelling to London and Italy, and emigrating to Paris and finally the USA.

He was never interested in the avant-garde, and thought that modernists spent too much attention on the concrete materials of music.

Whereas, in his own works, he wished to faithfully communicate his inner emotion to both performer and listener, so that when leaving the world he could be satisfied in saying I have fulfilled my life's task.

Some of his songs and sacred works, which are entrenched in the rich heritage of Russian folk song, became very popular, and he was subsequently awarded a pension by the Tsar.

This stopped during the Revolutionary period, and at times he and his wife were close to starvation.

Grechaninov was however considered something of a revolutionary himself, for daring to question the authority of the Holy Synod in the realms of sacred music.

He believed that liturgical music should relate to the texts sung, and not be over embellished, and he actively promoted the use of instruments which the Holy Synod had previously banned.

Grechaninov's sacred music lives on today, and the Creed from his second setting of the Liturgy of St.

John Chrysostom was performed in the blessing ceremony of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.

In the first episode exploring the life and music of Aleksandr Grechaninov, Donald Macleod looks at the composer's early years battling against poverty and his fathers will, in order to study music.

Once a piano was eventually installed at his home, it would feature prominently in his own compositions, and in Snowflakes opus 47, Grechaninov performs on the piano himself.

Grechaninov's parents were deeply religious, and he was often taken to the shrines of Saints, even having to bite into the wooden coffin of St Sergius in order to cure toothache.

Sacred music would prove to be of significant interest to Grechaninov, including his concerto for choir, Inspire, O Lord.

Through cheating in his school exams, Grechaninov would eventually be allowed to study music, firstly at the Moscow Conservatoire.

However, he argued with his teacher Arensky, and left to study under Rimsky-Korsakov at the St Petersburg Conservatoire.

Rimsky-Korsakov would not only be best man at Grechaninov's wedding, but would also advocate the performance of a number of his student's works, including the String Quartet opus 2, which won a Belyayev prize.


03Grechaninov Questions The Holy Synod20110914Donald Macleod focuses on the beginnings of Grechaninov's struggle with the Holy Synod.

Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Aleksandr Grechaninov, whose very long life included surviving the privations of the Bolshevik uprising, and eventually emigrating to the USA.

Donald Macleod continues his survey of the life and music of Aleksandr Grechaninov.

Grechaninov had made a name for himself in a number of musical arenas including chamber and orchestral music, so he turned his attention to his first opera Dobrinya Nikititch.

It proved to be very popular, especially the aria the Flowers are blooming, which we'll hear in a recording from 1904.

During this period, Grechaninov started to become a little troublesome in the eyes of the Holy Synod, for daring to question their authority in the realms of sacred music.

He was convinced that their predilection for ornate liturgical music was wrong, and that music composed for liturgical use should be closely related to the sung text.

One example is his Creed from the second Liturgy of St John Chrysostom opus 29, which Tsar Nicholas II ordered to be sung ever Sunday at the Imperial Court Chapel.

It was more recently performed at the blessing ceremony of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Grechaninov around this time had also become involved in the Ethnographical Society of the Moscow University, and had a keen interest in folk music.

This musical heritage filtered through into his works, including his second symphony opus 27, nicknamed the Pastoral because of its folk music influence.


04Living In The Middle Of A Battlefield20110915He was considered a revolutionary in the realms of sacred music, and survived the privations of the Bolshevik uprising, to emigrate (eventually) to the USA - Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Aleksandr Grechaninov.

Conflict is the main theme of this fourth programme in which Donald Macloed surveys the life and music of Aleksandr Grechaninov.

The Orthodox Church were keeping a close eye on this revolutionary composer who had dared to question their authority.

They banned Grechaninov's second opera Sister Beatrice as blasphemous, and his sacred music such as the Cantata Praise the Lord opus 65, would have to be premiered in a concert hall, not a religious venue, for it dared to use instruments.

Although Grechaninov was awarded a pension by the Tsar, and his works were proving very popular, no one was safe during the revolution of 1917.

Grechaninov and his wife would find themselves close to starvation, and he ended up in a sanatorium due to malnutrition.

During this period, Grechaninov would give a number of concerts for children in hospitals, where he would start to generate ideas for his set of ten piano pieces for children opus 99.

Life was becoming a risky business for the Grechaninov family, as they found their house in the middle of a no-man's-land between two warring sides.

They were scared to go outside for fear of being hit by a stray bullet.

In fact the Bolsheviks searched their house, convinced that there were snipers operating from there, and subsequently closed off a lot of the rooms to Grechaninov, including his study.

However, a ray of light came in the guise of Charles Crane who paid for Grechaninov and his wife to visit London, and who also paid for new clothes, and the best food and accommodation.

Upon returning to Russia refreshed, there was a new economic policy which made circumstances a little better, and Grechaninov gave a number of concerts including the premiere of his third symphony opus 100.

Donald Macleod explores Grechaninov's collision with the Orthodox Church.