Dargomyzhsky, Alexander

 Alexander Sergeyevich Dargomyzhsky  (14 February 1813 – 17 January 1869)

Alexander Sergeyevich Dargomyzhsky (14 February 1813 – 17 January 1869)

 Alexander Sergeyevich Dargomyzhsky  (14 February 1813, Troitsko village, Belyovsky District, Tula Governorate – 17 January 1869,  Saint Petersburg) was a Russian composer.

Dargomyzhsky – younger contemporary and follower of Glinka. In the history of Russian music, he came as a “great teacher of musical truth”, a bold innovator.
Dargomyzhsky’s views were formed during the 30-40-ies of the XIX century, a time of rapid development of Russian culture.  Dargomyzhsky sensitively responded to all advanced and progressive in Russian art. In his work, he was close to the democratic writers and artists of Russia. Particularly close ties vocal music Dargomizhskiy Pushkin, Gogol, Lermontov. Not by chance the best creation Dargomyzhsky written in the words of Pushkin and Lermontov.


 Alexander Dargomyzhsky was born February 2, 1813 in the Troitsko village, Belyovsky District, Tula Governorate. At the end of 1817 the family moved to St. Petersburg. The composer’s father was the office manager at a commercial bank. His mother, an educated and talented woman, she loved art, wrote poetry. Some of them even printed. In the family, children’s education Dargomyzhsky attached great importance. As with many noble families, children brought up at home, they invited teachers.

 A lover of poetry and music, Dargomyzhsky mother also developed in their children a love for art. The elder brother of the composer Erast was an excellent violinist. The bonds of deep friendship bound Alexander Sergeyevich with both his sisters – Sophia and Hermine. The elder sister Sophia later became the wife of the famous artist Stepanova and Dargomyzhsky lived with his sister’s family. Sophia was intelligent, household. She dearly loved brother Alexander and gave him plenty of time cases.

 Musical ability of small Alexander appeared early. With seven years he began learning to play the piano.
Since 1821 teacher of music began Dargomyzhsky Adrian Danilevsky Trofimovich. Already at the age of ten, the boy emerged the desire to be creative. He composes small piano pieces and songs. However, his teacher regarded this disapproval. Subsequently, the composer wrote: “Did he consider it improper for a Russian nobleman, or believed that I could better use his time memorizing given me a piano lesson, but every time I bring him to show new work, in the book the behavior of my noted : very bad, and I was punished”.

 In addition to lessons on the piano, Dargomyzhsky studied violin and singing. Yet piano game remained in the first place. While in Russia, he lived a famous virtuoso Franz Shoberlehner whose performances enjoyed great success. His game has made the young man a lasting impression. Three years Dargomyzhsky took piano lessons from Shoberlehner. Sport brought him a lot of benefits, and over time it has become a great pianist.
By the age of eighteen Dargomyzhsky he was already the author of many works for piano, violin, two quartets, cantatas and songs. Some of his works were published. But his compositional technique was still insufficient.

 Of great importance in the life of Dargomyzhsky played his meeting with Glinka in 1835. Young musicians quickly converged, became friends and often played music together. At that time, Glinka worked on the opera “Ivan Susanin”. He gave Dargomyzhsky notebook with records of lectures of his teacher, Siegfried Dehn, and the young man engaged in serious study of music and theoretical subjects.
Soon Dargomyzhsky began work on the opera “La Esmeralda”, based on the novel by Victor Hugo “Notre Dame de Paris.” The choice of subject then manifested interest in the young composer to the French culture. “Esmeralda” Opera he graduated in 1841. Friends Dargomyzhsky – advanced writers – welcomed the opera, but its production was delayed for several years. Opera was not kept in the repertoire. The composer was very upset by all these failures.

 Upon completion of the work on the “Esmeralda” Dargomyzhsky wrote other works: music for amateur performances, the cantata “The Triumph of Bacchus” in the words of Pushkin, later revised the opera-ballet. Especially happy to compose songs Dargomyzhsky. By this time he was recognized in St. Petersburg singing teacher. In his house were organized musical evenings where performed Russian music and especially the works of Glinka and Dargomyzhsky.

 Gradually Dargomizhskiy brewing the idea of going abroad. Most of all he wanted to visit Paris, to get acquainted with the outstanding musicians. Since childhood, he fascinated the French literature and poetry, the French opera.
In 1844 Dargomyzhsky went abroad, visited Berlin, Brussels, Paris, Vienna. The journey lasted about six months. The trip brought a lot of new impressions, interesting meetings with musicians, composers. The social atmosphere in Paris was intense, the growing revolutionary movement. This is reflected in the arts, especially theater. Dargomyzhsky enthusiastically attended the opera and the theater.
In a foreign country, far from the homeland of felt truly Russian artist. Dargomyzhsky wrote: “… there is no nation in the world better than Russian and … if there are elements of poetry in Europe, it is in Russia”.
During this period, finally got the world Dargomizhskiy a realist painter. There was time to artistic maturity. All this is reflected in his work. It was during these years Dargomyzhsky drawn to the themes of the life of the Russian people truly seeks to put into music intonations of human speech. On his return, he begins to create the opera “Rusalka” to the plot of the play Pushkin socio-accusatory nature. At the same time he wrote many excellent songs.
In his mature songs and romances Dargomyzhsky presents a bold innovator. Following the path of Glinka, he at the same time to rethink many of the traditional vocal genres and created new ones. So there were monologues, reflections “And bored and sad”- (“I skuchno i grustno”), “I’m sad”- (“Mne grustno”) Lermontov poems. Lermontov’s poetry with its pathos of anger and bitterness, with her passionate denunciation unattractive Russian reality – especially attracts Now Dargomyzhsky. If Glinka, creating their romance, sought to transfer the general mood of the text, using the smooth song melodies, then Dargomyzhsky is another way. His melodies follow all the subtle curves of the text ( “I’m sad”), they are full of “speaking” voice intonations.

 In 1853, at the initiative of the well-known Russian music critic and educator Odoevskii was arranged a concert of works Dargomyzhsky. The success was huge. Warm welcome from the musicians and the public aroused Dargomyzhsky of a new surge of creative energy. He enthusiastically continues to work on the “Rusalka”, he wrote the libretto himself.
The set in 1856 on the stage of the circus-Theatre in St. Petersburg, “Rusalka” was adopted by the aristocratic audience indifferent. Only a democratically-minded youth opera met with sympathy. Different views and critics. In defense of Dargomyzhsky made great Russian writer on music by Alexander Serov. He noted in this regard the opera with folk music, truthfulness and sincerity. On the stage of the opera came with significant reductions in poor formulation and soon was removed from the repertoire, despite the excellent performance as Miller’s famous singer Osip Petrov.

At the end of the 50s Dargomyzhsky moving closer to the democratic circle of poets and writers, takes an active part in the work of the satirical magazine “Iskra”. Then he creates a song socio-accusatory nature. Some of the songs he composed to the words of Vasily Kurochkin – the outstanding poet “Iskra” log. Among them, the dramatic song “Old Corporal” and the satirical song “Worm” on poems by Pierre Beranger translated Kurochkin.
In the early 60s appeared bright orchestral pieces: “Kazachok”, “Baba Yaga” and “Chuhonskaya Fantasy” (on the Finnish folk themes). Like Glinka, Dargomyzhsky uses these folk melodies. In many ways, the composer draws on the traditions of Glinka, but in these plays is revealed, and the identity of the brightness of his own talent.
A lot of time gives Dargomyzhsky socio-educational activities as a member of the Committee of the Russian Musical Society.

In 1864 Dargomyzhsky went abroad again, this time when he was already a mature composer. In Leipzig, in his honor was organized a musical evening. Enthusiastically met the composer in Brussels, where the concert was performed the overture to “Rusalka” opera and symphonic piece “Kazachok”. Then Dargomyzhsky visited Paris, London and in May 1865 he returned to St. Petersburg.
And here at home, he also received recognition. In the 60 years significantly changed the composition of the theater audience: the theater came Democratic Youth with its new requirements for art. Resumed in St. Petersburg “Rusalka” was now enthusiastically adopted a new audience. Actors were talented Russian artists Osip Petrov (Miller) and Yulia Platonovа (Natasha).
In the late 50s there was community of composers “Mighty Handful”, led by Balakirev. Dargomyzhsky approaches with young composers Balakirev circle. In this friendship he finds a source of creative energy, draws its strength to fight for new aesthetic ideals. The composer began work on the opera “The Stone Guest” on the text of Pushkin’s little tragedy. He composed a lot, with great inspiration. Even a serious illness can not tear him away from hard work.

His originality and uniqueness, this opera aroused sincere admiration of composers of the “Mighty Handful”. Bright characteristics of heroes of Pushkin’s tragedy Dargomyzhsky recreated by melodiously-recitative dialogue. Recitative Dargomyzhsky, expressive and flexible, reached the top of Excellence here. The opera is no universally accepted division into rooms. It is dominated by a continuous, “through” development. Only two songs have Laura finished, rounded shape. Complete your full opera Dargomyzhsky did not have time. He died on January 5, 1869. He was buried near the grave of Glinka. According to the will Dargomyzhsky, the opera “The Stone Guest” has finished composer César Cui and Rimsky-Korsakov orchestrated. In 1872, the “Mighty Handful” composers have staging of this opera in St. Petersburg at the Mariinsky Theatre.


F. Chaliapin in the role of Miller in Dargomyzhsky's opera RUSALKA

F. Chaliapin in the role of Miller in Dargomyzhsky’s opera “RUSALKA”

 “Rusalka” – the first Russian opera in the nature of the psychological household of musical drama. The main task of the composer – a reflection of spiritual heroes of the world, their experiences and characters.
The new task demanded and new musical expression. That is why the opera is relatively little closed musical numbers, lyrical arias and ensembles. Mostly through the principle of development. Joint singing in the ensemble freely replaced by a dialogue between the actors. And it is in the dialogues often contain vivid musical characteristics of heroes. This bold and new technique was developed later in the works of other Russian composers – Musorgsky, Tchaikovsky.
The basis of the content of “Rusalka” is a social conflict. With great artistic power and truth in the opera tells of the fate of a simple Russian girl, deceived and abandoned
a rich prince. Natasha tragedy – a tragedy of many Russian girls who live in the landlord-serf system was crippled aristocratic whims. The content of the drama of Pushkin composer largely upheld, prisochinil only end, absent in Pushkin. However, some heroes of Pushkin’s drama in the opera received the names. Thus, Miller’s daughter is given the name of Natasha and her friend Princess – Olga.

 In the opera, the four actions. Stage action is preceded by an overture in sonata form. It heard some opera themes, such as: Cheering theme wedding chorus from the second act in the introduction of the overture; Natasha on the theme aria from the first act is based adverse party. However, Overture does not reflect the series of works of dramatic action, it recreates only the general character of the music of “Rusalka”.
In his opera Dargomyzhsky sought above all to reveal the inner world of the characters and their characters. Under the influence of the dramatic events of the characters are changed. The gentle and selfless Natasha awakened anger and bitterness, hatred for her man cheated. At the end of the opera is overbearing and vindictive mermaid.
Miller, father of Natasha – joker. But sometimes he was not averse to grumble at her, inspiring her girl how to behave. In the third step, under the influence of experienced grief before the viewer is presented an entirely different image. He shakes his tragedy, causing a feeling of angry resentment towards people who has brought him to distraction.

 The importance of the opera is the first action. There are musical characteristics of the protagonists – Natasha Miller, Duke. It happens, and the denouement of the drama:
Natasha commits suicide, and ceases to exist as a real girl, turning subsequently arrogant mermaid – the queen of the Dnieper water.
The first action. Mill on the banks of the Dnieper. Natasha Miller’s daughter, and the young prince fell in love. Natasha loves sincerely, faithfully, without thinking about the future, not listening to the warnings of his father. Meanwhile, Prince began to visit the mill less and less.
Miller’s Aria opens the first act. In music, arias Dargomyzhsky aptly captures traits Miller – a penchant for gay buffoonery yet grouchiness. The main theme of Miller’s aria – lively with dance rhythms and sharp, angular accents in the melody. It sounds and small orchestral introduction.

"Rusalka" score

“Rusalka” score

Characterized by repeatedly spoken words: “One and the same you need to repeat a hundred times “, performed with the melody, which often repeat the same melodic turns.
The image of Natasha revealed for the first time in a lyrical Terzetto. Terzetto characterizes the sad mood of the three existing persons – Natasha Prince and Miller. Joint singing freely enters into a dialogue between the actors. Delicate and intimate party Natasha at the same time impetuous and swift. She characterized the broad strokes melodies. This reflects a sincere and
spunky girl character. Vividly revealed her image at the beginning of the Andante in F Minor, “Oh, the time has passed, the golden time.” Heartful song melodies close to the genre of urban romance lyric, underscoring and accompaniment, easy and similar waltz:

"Rusalka" score

“Rusalka” score

Prince calms her and gives her a rich necklace. Singing lyric of the song “Oh, my heart” is a group of farmers. Gently, quietly and sadly it sounds oboe solo, in its timbre close to the popular wind instruments – flute, zhaleyka. The same melody picks sang. The song gradually varies, enriched henchmen. Miller asks farmers to amuse Prince cheerful round dance. Round dance “Braiding, wattle” – a cheerful and lively. She sings her female chorus on the background and the moving transparent support violas and clarinets. Interesting in this song it Six tact’s structure, typical of the Russian round dance, which further emphasizes its national character:

"Rusalka" score

“Rusalka” score

Fun is becoming more violent. Smooth round dance moves directly into the third song – “How to Mount a beer we brewed” – fast, provocative, with an elastic and mobile theme, executable cheerful patter. The basis of this choir is a genuine folk melody:

"Rusalka" score

“Rusalka” score

The song is accompanied by a cheerful round dance game and trampling by a dance. Farmers go. Cheerless prince, embarrassed his thoughtfulness and Natasha. With a sense of foreboding she asks the Prince, and he tells her about the separation. At first, Natasha did not understand him. She is ready to go with him everywhere, even in the campaign. But then I guess what it was. Here the composer with great honesty and dramatic force was able to uncover the psychological state of the music of Natasha. Timid and frightened, afraid of their words, Natasha asked quietly: “You married?”. The prince was silent. Now Natasha understands everything. Angrily she shouts angrily and the second time the same phrase: “You married?”. Dargomyzhsky finds in music intonation of human speech when the same word spoken with a different intonation, open the music, as well as in human speech, different moods, feelings. And the dynamics, and the interval ratio of the sounds of the melody, finally, stopping at the unstable stage of the frets contribute to this.

The prince tries to calm Natasha. His melody sounds insinuatingly “Judge for yourself, we are not free to take our own wives”. He is to marry a noble girl, although Natasha should soon become a mother. The prince puts on her head a rich bandage, leaves a bag full of money for her father and hurries away. The torpor of Natasha is replaced by an explosion of anger and grief. She informs her father of the Prince’s marriage. This explanation also belongs to the most dramatic places of the opera. Remembering the words of the Prince, Natasha sarcastically and bitterly repeats them:

You see, the princes are not free
Look for a wife for himself personally.

 They sound with the same melody with which the Prince sang them, but with a sharper dotted rhythm, which is also underlined. This creates the impression of “sarcasm”, anger.

Not listening to the persuasion of his father and his fellow villagers, the girl in deep desperation rushes into the waters of the Dnieper. All are shocked.

The second action. A rich wedding in the house of the Prince. Guests’ chorus glorifies the young. Princess says goodbye to her friends. The Congratulations chorus is replaced by merry dances – Slavic, gypsy. The girls are singing the comic song “Svatushka”. The words of this song are folk songs.

"Rusalka" score

“Rusalka” score

Suddenly Natasha’s voice is heard: her complete sorrow song brings confusion.

Natasha’s song serves as a turning point in the development of the action. At the height of the fun, the orchestra sounds gentle, but at the same time cold and transparent crossover of the harp strings, and the sad melody sings by oboe. Then Natasha’s voice is heard:

By pebbles, in the yellow sand
A fast river ran by,
In a fast river two fish walk,
Two fish, two small flesh.
And did you hear, little sister fish,
About our news, about the river?
As the evening the red girl drowned,
Drowning, dear friend cursed …

"Rusalka", (Natasha's song) score

“Rusalka”, (Natasha’s song) score

 The song combines the sorrow of the Russian melodic melody – simple and touching – and, at the same time, with its cold coloring, draws the image of another Natasha, no longer a real, passionately loving girl, but a fairy mermaid. In the first act, the vocal part of Natasha was accompanied by warm timbres of the string or wooden bands of the orchestra. The harrowing of the harp strings creates an image of a fantastic and cold creature.

 Everyone is confused and worried. The prince is frightened and demands from the servant that he find and lead the Miller’s daughter. The young princess anticipates the evil:

Not for the good of our wedding
The song of sadness was heard …

And another bitter moan of Natasha is heard at the moment when the Prince kisses his young wife. Everyone embraces the horror, and sadly ends the rich wedding.

Third action. In the Princess’s house. Twelve years have passed. Marriage did not bring happiness to the Prince, nor to the Princess. The prince is sad, often absent from home, visits places where he was happy with Natasha. And the princess yearns for one. Her friend Olga, wishing to amuse the Princess, sings a comic song “As we have In the street”. Having learned from the servant that the Prince is alone on the Dnieper riverside, the Princess decides to go with him along with Olga.

On the riverside of the Dnieper, mermaids are playing round dances. With the advent of the Prince, they hide. At the place where the mill once was, now there are some ruins: “The cheerful noise of the wheels stopped her”. With bitterness the Prince recalls his former happiness with Natasha. Years passed, and he still could not forget Natasha, her sincere and great love. Now the Prince is full of remorse. Sad memories rushed over him at the sight of familiar places.

The Cavatina of the Prince begins with a melodious recitative “Involuntarily to these sad shores …”. Music is thoughtful and sad:

"Rusalka" (The-Cavatina of the Prince) score

“Rusalka” (The-Cavatina of the Prince) score

The miller, Natasha’s father, lost his mind from grief and imagined himself a crow. Abandoned and miserable, he meets the Prince and does not recognize him. All this dramatic scene, like the first action of the opera, is built on continuous, “through” development. Meeting with the Prince deeply worries Miller. The unhappy recollects Natasha’s sad fate. His daughter seemed to have become a mermaid, the queen of the waters here. She has a little daughter who sometimes looks after him.

The prince is shocked by what he heard. He invites the Miller to his house, but the latter refuses with horror, remembering the terrible death of his daughter. The unhappy old man exclaims angrily: “You lure, but there, perhaps, you strangle with a necklace”. In despair, he begs the Prince to return his daughter. In a fit of fury rushes to the Prince. The rescued servants save their master.

The fourth action. In the underwater tower of the mermaids. Natasha is the queen of the Dnieper waters. The evening is approaching. She releases the mermaids to the shore and asks her daughter – a little mermaid – to swim up and lure the Prince – her father. Natasha waits for her time and wants revenge:

Since I rushed into the water
Desperate, abandoned girl
And in the depths of the Dnieper River I woke up
Mermaid cold and mighty,
Twelve full years passed.
Every day I think about revenge;
And now, it seems, my hour has come!

On the banks of the Dnieper. Here the Prince returns again. Appear and Princess with Olga. Having seen the Prince, they hide. There is a meeting of the Prince with the little mermaid – his daughter. The Little Mermaid talks about her mother and calls him to her. In vain, the Princess and Olga try to keep the Prince. From the depths of the Dnieper, Natasha’s voice is heard – she calls him. The Little Mermaid carries the Prince, the Miller helps her. There is a mocking laugh from the mermaids.

The epilogue depicts the underwater kingdom. Mermaids put the dead body of the Prince at the feet of his queen. So took revenge on the Mermaid for deceived girl Natasha. The orchestra proudly and powerfully sounds the theme of her appeal, built on the intonations of the folk lullaby.

Opera “Rusalka” rightfully belongs to one of the most beloved operas of Russian classics.


Prominent in the work of Dargomyzhsky are romances and songs. They are written by a composer over a hundred. The content of Dargomyzhsky’s vocal music is exceptionally rich. Here, sincere lyrics, joking slyness and drama, calm landscapes and characteristic household sketches, and at times a corrosive social satire, in which Dargomyzhsky was an innovator. Especially deeply and psychologically truthfully revealed in the romances is the inner world of man with his thoughts, feelings and character.

I was sixteen years old” (in the words of Anton Delvig) – a successful example of the embodiment of character. Already from the first bars of music before the listener there is an image of a young girl, slightly sly, affectionate, gay and graceful. Creation of such an impression contributes to the major harmony and easy waltz rhythm. The melody is expressive, with its unexpected whimsical twists. She as though draws changeable, a little capricious character of the girl-minx, its graceful movements and gestures:

"I was sixteen years old" score

“I was sixteen years old” score

The romance “I’m sad” on Lermontov’s poems is imbued with profound lyricism. Pushkin and Lermontov were the favorite poets of Dargomyzhsky. Their genius served as a source of inspiration for many Russian composers. The music of this romance subtly conveys the content of the poem, further strengthening its sad mood. Expressive means here are completely different.

The piano part resembles a guitar accompaniment in everyday romances.On the background of this pensive, gentle and quiet search of the guitar strings sounds a sincere confession – a vocal melody with features of declamation. It’s like a living human speech, interrupted by pauses, like sighs, melody smooth, full of meditation and sadness. Deeply impresses with its intonational expressiveness the first phrase for the words “I’m sad” with a bright move to the descending diminished quint (Triton):

"I'm sad" score

“I’m sad” score

In its development, the melody follows the text, its final culmination emphasizes the main idea of the poem – a thought that means that happiness among a hypocritical society, among people of treacherous and spiteful ones, is impossible. Lermontov’s poem is imbued with alarm for the fate of an expensive man, and this mood is subtly embodied in Dargomyzhsky’s romance. It clearly revealed the main principle of the composer: “I want the sound to express the word directly. I want the truth. ”

“Old Corporal” is a dramatic ballad-type song written in the words of Pierre Beranger, the poet of the French Revolution (translated by V. Kurochkin). It refers to those songs in which Dargomyzhsky reflected the ideas of social injustice, inequality.

The song tells about the fate of the old soldier, who could not bear the insults received from the young officer, and for that he was sentenced to be shot. Stepping to the place of execution, he tries to cheer up his comrades: “In the foot, guys! Time! Two! Throw your hand out, do not whine, get even! Time! Two! Time! Two”!.

In music, Dargomyzhsky truthfully and with real artistic power drew the courageous face of an old soldier, reflected the depth of his experiences. In different verses with a melodic structure of verses with a refrain, the composer recreated the speech of the old soldier addressed to his comrades, his reflections on life’s vicissitudes, the bitter resentment and memories of the past. In the middle part – singing and slower – he recalls his native village, her wide free will, and the old woman-wife.

The repeated refrain in the rhythm of a clear march – his appeal to his comrades – sounds like a drill command given by a corporal. The music of the song follows the text flexibly, developing naturally and freely. An important expressive role in the song is played by the rhythm of the march:

"Old Corporal" score

“Old Corporal” score

The importance of Dargomyzhsky in the history of Russian music is great. Heir to the work of Glinka, he at the same time was the first Russian composer who in his work raised the subject of social denunciation, created comic and satirical songs, managed to broaden the circle of images of chamber-vocal lyric poetry in many ways. Dargomyzhsky to the end of his days went with the advanced people of his time, he entered the history of Russian music as a realist composer, whom Mussorgsky called “the great teacher of musical truth”. One of Dargomyzhsky’s winged phrases: “I want the sound to express the word directly, I want the truth”

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