The world press calls Rodion Shchedrin "one of the most prominent Russian composers of the past 50 years," and his compositions "the most playable in the world" (according to the information of the agency Sikorsky, Shchedrin's "Carmen Suite" is played somewhere on the planet every day). His premieres feature star musicians, his ballets involve the magnificent Maya Plisetskaya, and ballet costumes for his plays are made by Pierre Cardin.
Rodion Shchedrin was born on December 16th, 1932, to a family of professional musicians. Nevertheless, he wasn't much interested in music as a child. Then came the war and the evacuation, and musical lessons were arranged only after the family had returned to Moscow. Shchedrin became a pupil of the Central Music School of the Moscow Conservatory.
In late 1944, Moscow officials inaugurated the opening of a Choir School. Alexander Sveshnikov invited Konstantin Shchedrin to teach history and musical theory. Shchedrin, Sr., agreed, but asked that his son be accepted as a pupil, and the boy was soon completely captured by choir singing.
In 1947, the school hosted a contest for composers, with the jury being headed by the famous Soviet composer Aram Khachaturian. Shchedrin won the contest - it was his first success where composition was concerned.
In 1950, Shchedrin joined the Moscow Conservatory, where he attended two faculties at a time, the piano faculty and the composers' faculty.
In the fifties, Shchedrin was already a bold experimentalist attracted by the richness of Russian folk songs and so-called chastooshkas - short upbeat folk verses, usually humorous or topical. His love for folklore fully manifested itself in a piano concerto and a ballet called "Humpbacked Horse," both created in the mid-fifties.
The fairy tale "Humpbacked Horse" was composed by request from the Bolshoi Theater. At the age of twenty-odd, not yet an experienced composer, having not even yet finished the conservatory, he realized a grand idea that brought forth the features of his artistic nature: striking harmonies, expressiveness of musical phrases, and the graphic character of his music.
In the early sixties, Shchedrin wrote two major compositions, the opera "Not Love Alone" (1961) and the concerto for a symphony orchestra "Naughty Limericks" (1963). Both were based on Russian chastooshkas, which reflected the country's national character.
In 1965, Shchedrin completed the 2nd Symphony, which he wrote in the form of 25 preludes for an orchestra. The composition was inspired by the images of the Second World War. A year later, he came up with the 2nd Piano Concerto, which featured the new quality of his music, his very own preciseness and graphic character.
The seventies marked a new stage in the composer's creative work. His new compositions, including the ballet "Anna Karenina," which became a millstone on his new path, were highly psychological.
In 1979, the Bolshoi staged the premiere of Shchedrin's "Dead Souls." Based on the immortal poem by Gogol, the opera featured a libretto that Shchedrin wrote himself.
In 1980, the Bolshoi staged the ballet "The Seagull," based on the story by Chekhov, the music of which stood out for its dramaturgic wholesomeness and deep psychological aspect. 1982 was the year of the premiere of "The Execution of Pugachev," a poem for chorus based on lyrics by Pushkin. He then proceeded to write "Musical Offering," a piece for organ and brass (1983), which he dedicated to the 300th anniversary of the birth of Johann Bach; the ballet "The Lady with the Lapdog" based on a story by Chekhov (1985); "The Sealed Angel," a liturgy for mixed choir in nine parts, based on compositions by Leskov and dedicated to the 1000th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus. Creative work was interlaced with the composer's appearances on stage as the performer of his works - first as a pianist, then (beginning with the early eighties) as an organist.
Today, Shchedrin lives and works in Germany. A member of the Bavarian Music Academy, he keeps stirring up the music circles now and again. In 1994, he and Rostropovich wrote an opera called "Lolita," based on the book by Nabokov. Staged in Stockholm, the opera was a real scandal in the music world. It will premiere in Russia in 2003. In the philharmonic season of 2001-2002, Shchedrin was chosen Composer of the Year as a member of the Pittsburgh Symphonic Orchestra.
In order to honour the artist on his 70th anniversary, Moscow and St. Petersburg both held festivals called "Rodion Shchedrin. A Self-portrait," which took place between December 2nd and 12th.
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