Lyadov: Eight Russian Folk Songs

Anatoly Lyadov (1855-1914)
Eight Russian Folk Songs, Op. 58

  1. Religious Chant. Moderato
  2. Christmas Carol “Kolyada”. Allegretto
  3. Plaintive Song. Andante
  4. Humorous Song “I Danced With The Gnat”. Allegretto
  5. Legend Of The Birds. Allegretto
  6. Cradle Song. Moderato
  7. Round Dance. Allegro
  8. Village Dance Song. Vivo

Duration: 15'
Publisher: Public Domain
KSO performed: 2013 

If Lyadov is remembered at all now, it is generally as the composer who failed to come up with the goods for Diaghilev, thus paving the way for a young upstart called Igor Stravinsky to make his name.  This is rather unfair.  Although Diaghilev certainly considered Lyadov for the job, there is little evidence that he got as far as asking him about it, and none that Lyadov ever received such an offer.  A good story often wins out against facts, however, and so Lyadov’s place in history remains as the composer too lazy to write The Firebird.

Nevertheless, it remains true that Lyadov never managed to complete any of the larger scale works that he began. It all began so brightly for him.  He was born into a musical family: his father was a conductor at the Mariinsky Theatre. He entered the St Petersburg Conservatory in 1870 aged only 14, initially to study piano and violin, but soon joining Rimsky-Korsakov’s composition class. Unfortunately his appalling attendance record at lectures led to his expulsion in 1876, although he did manage to secure re-admittance two years later in time to graduate.  Thereafter he held a number of teaching posts at the Conservatory, and was considered a talented pianist and conductor, as well as a sympathetic teacher.

If he had indeed inherited a family trait of lack of concentration and slack approach to work, his meagre output is at least as much due to an intense self-criticism and lack of confidence in his own ability.   His great strength was as a miniaturist, evident in his piano pieces and orchestral tone poems. In the late 1890s he developed a growing preoccupation with Russian folk song, and eventually published several volumes of tunes that he had collected for the Imperial Geographical Society.  Some of these he arranged for orchestra, and this suite of eight finely-crafted miniatures was completed in 1906.

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