See how much you know about Russian music in this enjoyable quiz.
From Russia with Feeling
Russia ~ that vast, sprawling Eastern neighbour to Europe ~ has in its time produced much wonderful music and many fine musicians. How well acquainted are you with them?
This composer lived from 1844 to 1908 and like many of his period and nationality, combined composition and other musical activities with a largely unrelated 'day job' as an Officer of the Russian Imperial Navy ~ though he was also involved as a band inspector, apparently. He is remembered (among much else) for one of the shortest and fastest pieces ever written, The Flight of the Bumble-Bee, but also for his enchanting music for Scheherezade and the wistful Hindu Song from Sadko (famously done-up in foxtrot form as Song of India by Tommy Dorsey and others). Who was he?
The 'bee piece' has been arranged (by others) for, and performed on, even the most improbable of instruments such as the tuba and the pedalboard of the organ
Most of Russia's cultural contact with Europe necessarily came from, or through, the port at the 'top' of the Baltic. Which city is this?
This is the city of the famous Hermitage and Winter Palace, among many other fine institutions; the present capital, Moscow, did not necessarily loom so large in the past. It was at St Petersburg, for example, that Tchaikovsky received his Conservatory training
Active early in, and towards the middle of, the 19th century, this pioneering 'nationalist' composer is probably best remembered for Ruslan and Lyudmila, the first Russian-language opera, whose overture is a fairly familiar classic further afield. Who was he?
The lively overture is enduringly and deservedly popular, but the rest of the work also contains many lovely moments
The first electronic musical instrument to be serially produced and gain widespread acceptance (and to have music created especially for it, as well as playing arrangements of previous work) was named after its Russian inventor. What is the name?
The splendidly long-lived Leon Theremin (1896-1993) created the electronic instrument known by his name, as well as various other inventions in the fields of television and espionage technology. The instrument, based on the oscillator, produces a wavering, ethereal sound somewhat reminiscent of the fleeting shape of a large soap bubble floating in the air. This in turn lends itself to such uses as the signature tunes of mystery and detective serials. Theremin's biography (see Wikipedia, for instance) makes picaresque reading as one unusual man's progress through the chequered history of his own country, and others, during the 20th century
Our next composer was Armenian by birth, but became one of the leading composers of the Soviet era, writing ballet and other music. His score for Spartacus is deservedly familiar to many, and his disturbing waltz from Masquerade is one of those pieces which once heard, is very hard to forget. He also wrote in many other genres including the symphony and various concertos.
Who was he?
Much of Khachaturian's music carries strong influences of local folk music heard during his childhood
Originally a piano prodigy, this composer fell from grace with the Soviet regime not once but twice, yet was brought back into the Party after the death of Stalin. His output included no fewer than 15 symphonies. Who was he?
Another highly interesting and controversial cultural figure; the story of his Leningrad Symphony is particularly resonant
With which instrument was Mstislav Rostropovich particularly associated?
He was undoubtedly among the very top cellists of the 20th century and had fruitful collaborations with many leading artists and composers worldwide. His roster of honours and awards is unusually extensive even for an artist of such standing, and reflects the warm esteem in which he was held wherever he played and directed
Sergei Rachmaninov was a formidable pianist and composer with four concertos to his name. Another of his works for piano and orchestra is a famous set of variations on a theme originally written for the violin ... by whom?
This work sounds texturally like a concerto, but is in fact a suite of variations, each highly atmospheric. It might very fairly be argued that Rachmaninov inherited Tchaikovsky's mantle as 'Russian mood-musician par excellence'. One of his piano concertos was quickly seized upon to convey the emotional undercurrents in the otherwise apparently 'stiff-upper-lip' British film Brief Encounter in the early 1940s
Which of these works by Tchaikovsky is the odd one out?
The Sleeping Beauty
Answer 1 is an opera; the others are all ballets
His avant-garde ballet The Rite of Spring burst into the world of classical music in 1913, with a Paris premiere at which near-riotous scenes in the auditorium seemed to echo the raw textures of the music and staging. This composer was a Russian by name and by birth, but his innovations were to resonate across the whole world of the arts in that century. Who was he?