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Thursday, 24 September 2020, 6:00PM - 7:00PM
Online Lecture

Russian Piano Masterpieces: Musorgsky

Professor Marina Frolova-Walker

Musorgsky was a proficient, but not virtuosic pianist: in his youth, he entertained society ladies with popular marches and quadrilles, and in his last years, he toured as an accompanist in song recitals. On the basis of these modest exploits, no one could have predicted his Pictures at an Exhibition. This cycle of piano pieces is a kind of travelogue, following a Russian at home and abroad. We tour around the Russian Empire and beyond, and we are also invited to contemplate the drawings of Musorgsky’s friend Victor Hartmann (the work stands as a touching memorial to his art). 

Drawing inspiration from the Romanticism of Schumann and Liszt, Musorgsky filtered their ideas through his own Russian Realist aesthetic, and attempted to create accurate and convincing depictions of his subjects, with their distinctive voices, behaviour and locations. His piano writing is idiosyncratic, and sometimes even awkward, but it conveys his thoughts effectively in a riot of colour and contrasts. His instinctive, empirical approach to harmony was a formative influence for Debussy, the first of the great post-Romantic piano composers.


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Marina Frolova-Walker is Gresham Professor of Music. She is a Russian-born British musicologist and music historian. She is Professor of Music History and Director of Studies in Music at Clare College, Cambridge. 

Professor Marina Frolova-Walker is a specialist in the Russian music of the 19th and 20th centuries. She has published extensively on Russian music and is a well-known lecturer and broadcaster for BBC Radio 3. Among her many awards and appointments, she is a Fellow of the British Academy and was awarded the Edward Dent Medal in 2015 by the Royal Musical Association for her achievements in musicology. She was a Visiting Professor of Russian Music at Gresham in 2018-19. 

Professor Marina Frolova-Walker said:

“I am honoured and excited to take up the position of 36th Gresham Professor of Music, and I am delighted to have such eminent predecessors as John Bull and Iannis Xenakis. Bringing knowledge about music to a broader public has always been one of my passions, and the work of several recent Professors of Music such as David Owen Norris and Roger Parker has been an inspiration for my own activities as a public lecturer. 

“My first lecture series features the artistic project of the Ballet Russes, brainchild of the great impresario Serge Diaghilev. Prior to Diaghilev, no one thought that ballet could be transformed into a provocatively modern art, a platform for cutting-edge experiments in music, choreography and design. The project had its roots in Diaghilev’s inspired marketing of “Russianness” in the Parisian arts world, and he continued to develop his ideas until his circle had become an international hotbed of artistic innovation. “Surprise me!”, Diaghilev would say to anyone with a new proposal, and he did indeed bring about a stream of artworks that still surprise and delight us today.” 

You can find more information on Marina and her research interests here: https://www.marinafrolova-walker.com/

Professor Frolova-Walker's lecture series are as follows:

2020/21 Russian Piano Masterpieces

2019/20 Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes

2018/19 Russian Opera and the State

All lectures by the Gresham Professors of Music can be accessed here.

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