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Rodion Konstantinovich Shchedrin

born: 16 December 1932
country: Russia

Rodion Konstantinovich Shchedrin was born in Moscow on 16 December 1932 into a musical family. He graduated from the Moscow Choral School and then studied composition with Yury Shaporin and piano with Yakov Flier at the Moscow Conservatory, where he graduated with honours in 1955.

Shchedrin immediately made a name for himself as a composer working in a wide range of genres and styles and with imaginative use of the orchestra. The best known of his early works are the Piano Concerto No 1 (1954), the ballet The Little Humpbacked Horse (1955, based on Pyotr Yershov’s tale) and the Naughty Limericks concerto for orchestra (1963).

In 1958 Shchedrin married the ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, who would become the inspiration for his universally recognised achievements in music for ballet, beginning with the Carmen Suite (1967) and including ballets based on Russian classical literature (Anna Karenina in 1971, Seagull Suite in 1978, Lady with a Lapdog in 1985). His principal composition of the 1970s was the opera Dead Souls (1976) based on Gogol’s novel. It demonstrated his gift for broad musical synthesis and his outstanding mastery of the operatic theatre as a genre.

Although he had never been a member of the Communist Party, he was selected to be a delegate to the Congress of People’s Deputies in 1989, and he was an active member of the Inter-Regional Deputies’ Group headed by Andrei Sakharov, the physicist, and Boris Yeltsin, the future first president of Russia—a group which played a major role in bringing about social and political Perestroika.

Shchedrin’s political activity went hand in hand with an increase in his musical output, and he drew on new developments in contemporary music to enrich his creative style. By the 1990s Shchedrin had become one of the best-known and most sought-after composers of his generation on the international cultural stage. Commissions came from all quarters of the globe and premières of his work were usually performed by world-class conductors such as Leonard Bernstein, Lorin Maazel, Valery Gergiev, Mariss Jansons, Seiji Ozawa, Mstislav Rostropovich and Yehudi Menuhin.

Of the long list of works composed from the 1980s to the 2000s, particular mention can be made of the Musical Offering for organ and wind ensemble (1983), Stikhira for the Millennium of the Christianization of Russia for symphony orchestra (1988), the choral liturgical work The Sealed Angel (1988), based on Leskov’s story, the Concerto for Orchestra No 3, Old Music of Russian Provincial Circuses (1989), the opera Lolita (1993), based on the book by Nabokov, Russian Photographs (1994), the Third Symphony, Scenes from Russian Fairy Tales, (2000), Dialogues with Shostakovich, symphonic études for orchestra (2001), The Enchanted Wanderer, an opera for the concert stage, based on the story by Nicolai Leskov (2002), and the Russian choral opera Boyarinya Morozova (2006), with an original libretto, using hagiographies of the XVII century.

Since the early 1990s, Shchedrin has divided his time between Russia (Moscow), Germany (Munich) and Lithuania (Trakai). He is the author of five operas, five ballets, three symphonies, five concertos for orchestra, six piano concertos, concertos for the violin, viola, cello and trumpet, and many choral, ensemble and solo works.

In recent years, Shchedrin has worked closely with the Mariinsky Theatre, which has performed the operas The Enchanted Wanderer, Dead Souls, and Lolita, the ballet of The Little Humpbacked Horse (Konyok-Gorbunok) and put on successful performances of Naughty Limericks, Piano Concerto No 5 (with Denis Matsuev as soloist) and Symphonic Diptych (the world première was performed at the 8th Moscow Easter Festival).

from notes by Mariinsky © 2015

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