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Stanchinsky, Alexei (1888 - 1914)

Alexey Vladimirovich Stanchinsky was born in Obolsounovo, a small town in the Governorate of Vladimir.

He began his studies early and at the age of six he was already composing. In 1899 his family moved to Logachevo, near Smolensk, where the child was exposed to folk songs, possibly the very same ones that had inspired Glinka many decades before. From 1904 Stanchinsky visited Moscow regularly, being a private pupil of Josef Lhévinne, while taking composition classes with Gretchaninov. It was the latter who introduced the boy to Taneyev. In 1907 he entered his composition classes at the Moscow Conservatoire.

The death in 1908 of Vladimir Stanchinsky, the young man’s father, was to have a profound impact on his mental health and he was confined to a lunatic asylum for a year.

Even though he was pronounced incurable, he made a comeback and by 1910 was collecting folk songs in the vicinity of Smolensk.

In 1914 he gave his only recital, which was very well received by the critics, who saw in him the makings of a great composer, a promise which was to remain unfulfilled for later in the year he was found dead near a stream at a friend’s family estate, a death that up to now remains unexplained.

Almost all his music, apart from a song cycle after poems by Robert Burns and some chamber works, was written for the piano. None of these were published during his lifetime, the fist editions dating from the 1930s.

His main influence was Scriabin, to whom he owes the use of expanded tonality, though he never quite arrived at the latter’s near atonality. He also explored modal harmonies, leaving, for example, a prelude in the Lydian mode. He wrote three piano sonatas (the earlier one in one movement), études, preludes, Mazurkas and a Nocturne, as well as a piano trio.

-- Richard Willmer

  1. 12 Sketches Op.1 (1911)
Jan 5, 2016
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