Dargomïzhsky, Aleksandr Sergeyevich
- Jennifer Spencer,
- Richard Taruskin
- and Stuart Campbell
(b Troitskoye, Tula district, 2/Feb 14, 1813; d St Petersburg, 5/Jan 17, 1869). Russian composer. The outstanding figure in Russian opera between Glinka’s lapse into creative impotence and the advent of Tchaikovsky and The Five, Dargomïzhsky had an influence, and has a historical importance, out of all proportion to the frequency with which his music was ever performed. His songs and orchestral works are also of historical importance in the development of Russian music.
Dargomïzhsky’s father, the illegitimate son of a nobleman, and a wealthy landowner in the Smolensk district, possessed a caustic wit his son was to inherit. He had eloped with Princess Kozlovskaya, a minor poet whose sentimental verses and pallid dramatic scenes were published during the 1820s and 1830s. Her interest in French culture was communicated to their six children. Though it is recorded that she disliked music, her eldest son Viktor was an accomplished violinist, a daughter played the harp, and Aleksandr showed remarkable early promise as a pianist and composer. He was born on his father’s country property where his parents had taken refuge from the Napoleonic army. A sickly child, he began to speak only at the age of five. Thanks to lessons with the fashionable master Benedict Zeibig, he was to become a noted singing teacher, but his voice was always high-pitched and squeaky. In ...