Vasily Sergeyevič Kalinnikov (Russian: Васиь Сергеьевич Калинников) (January 13, 1866 [O.S. January 1] ? January 11, 1901) was a Russian composer of two symphonies, several additional orchestral works and numerous songs, all of them imbued with characteristics of folksong. His symphonies, particularly the First, were frequently performed in the early 20th century. In recent years his fame has diminished but the symphonies are available in recordings.
Kalinnikov studied at the seminary at Oryol, becoming director of the choir there at fourteen. Later he went to the Moscow Conservatory, but he couldn't pay his tuition fees there. On a scholarship he went to the Philharmonic Society School at Moscow, where he received bassoon and composition lessons from Alexander Il'yinsky. He played bassoon, timpani and violin in theater orchestras. He supplemented his income by working as a music copyist.
In 1892, Tchaikovsky recommended Kalinnikov for director of the Malïy Theater, and later that same year to the Moscow Italian Theater. Due to his worsening health and tuberculosis, Kalinnikov had to resign his theater appointments and move to the warmer, southern clime of the Crimea. He lived at Yalta for the rest of his life, and it was here that he wrote his two symphonies and the incidental music for Alexey Tolstoy's Tsar Boris. Thanks to Sergei Rachmaninoff's help, Tchaikovsky's publisher Pyotr Jurgensen bought three Kalinnikov songs for 120 rubles, and later the Symphony No. 2 in A major. The Symphony No. 1 in G minor, which uses some cyclic principles, was performed in Berlin, Vienna and Moscow during his lifetime, but not published until after his death, so Jurgensen increased the fees he would have paid Kalinnikov, and paid them to his widow. He was also survived by a brother, Viktor, who composed choral music and taught at the Philharmonic School.
In 2000, one of the lesser known works by Kalinnikov, the overture Bylina (probably composed around 1892), unexpectedly was brought out of obscurity. One of the lyrical themes in the overture (repeated several times in the second half of the overture) turned out to be strikingly similar to the beginning of Alexander Alexandrov's Soviet anthem music composed in 1936?1943. This similarity was used as one of the arguments for restoring the Soviet anthem tune in the State Duma debate. Indeed, Alexandrov's music with new words became the anthem of Russia the same year. A causal link between Bylina and the anthem has not been established; the similarity might well be a mere coincidence.
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