Sergei Mikhailovich Lyapunov (November 18, 1859 – November 8, 1924)

Sergei Mikhailovich Lyapunov (November 18, 1859 – November 8, 1924)

 Sergei Mikhailovich Lyapunov [also spelled as Liapunov] (born November 18, 1859, Yaroslavl, Russia – died November 8, 1924 Paris, France) was a Russian composer and pianist.


Background and early life

Sergei Lyapunov was born on November 18, 1859 in Yaroslavl into the family of a mathematician and astronomer, Mikhail Vasilievich Lyapunov, and an excellent pianist, Sofya Alexandrovna. Sergei had two brothers, Alexander and Boris.

The future composer showed his musical talent at a very early age. Sergei’s mother was his first piano teacher. When he was eight, his father died, and the family had to move to Nizhny Novgorod.


Young Sergei Lyapunov

Young Sergei Lyapunov

 In 1873-1878, Lyapunov attended the music classes in the newly opened branch of the Russian Musical Society in Nizhny Novgorod. In 1878, he was accepted to the Moscow Conservatory upon the recommendation of Nikolai Rubinstein. Sergei Lyapunov’s main teachers were Karl Klindworth (1830-1916), Paul Pabst (1834-1897) – they were both Franz Liszt’s disciples, and and V.I. Wilborg, he studied composition with Nikolai Hubert (1840-1888), Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), and Sergei Taneyev (1856-1915), Tchaikovsky’s disciple.

During Lyapunov’s years in the conservatory he showed an increased fascination with the works of composers of the The Five (The Mighty Handful). He was attracted to the music of Mily Balakirev and Alexander Borodin, which left a particularly lasting impression on the young musician. For this reason, he rejected the offer to remain as a teacher at the Moscow Conservatory. 

The Five (The Mighty Handful): Mily Balakirev (the leader), Aleksander Borodin, César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

The Five (The Mighty Handful):
Mily Balakirev (the leader), Aleksander Borodin, César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov


After graduating in 1883, Lyapunov was introduced to Balakirev, their encounter started a life-long friendship and collaboration between two composers. His first public appearance as the conductor of his Scherzo in F Major for orchestra, performed at the Moscow Conservatory in 1883, was praised by S. Flerov in the local newspaper Moskovskiye Vedomosti.

In 1885, Lyapunov relocated to St. Petersburg. He became the most devoted student and personal friend of Balakirev. Through Balakirev the composer became personally acquainted with Aleksander Borodin, César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Under Balakirev’s guidance, Lyapunov started working on his First Symphony in B Minor.

Since 1890 Lyapunov had been teaching at the Nikolaev Cadet Corps, in 1894-1902 he worked as an assistant director of the Imperial Chapel, succeeding Rimsky-Korsakov. Lyapunov together with Balakirev edited the most complete Collection of Glinka’s works for that time. 

Musical evening at Balakirev’s flat, circa 1900.

Musical evening at Balakirev’s flat, circa 1900.

Lyapunov’s First Piano Concerto, Op. 4, which was completed in 1890 and dedicated to Balakirev, received a prestigious Glinka prize in 1904 as one of the best new Russian compositions. In 1905, Lyapunov headed Balakirev’s Free School of Music. After Balakirev’s death in 1910, Lyapunov completed some of his unfinished works and in 1912 he orchestrated Balakirev’s most celebrated work, Islamey: Oriental Fantasy.

Sergei Lyapunov in later years

Sergei Lyapunov in later years

 Between 1910 and 1917, Lyapunov gave classes in theory and piano at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. In 1919, he became a lecturer at the State Institute of Art.

Later he began performing as a pianist and conductor. In 1923, Lyapunov went to Europe, making several tours. The same year, he emigrated to Paris, because of his dislike of the Soviet regime. In Paris Lyapunov ran a music school for Russian emigrants. Lyapunov produced a great number of piano, vocal, and orchestral works.


Sergei Lyapunov had been working in Paris until his death on November 8, 1924 after suffering a coronary. He was buried there near the Porte de Clichy in the Cimetière des Batignolles.


Lyapunov’s creative legacy includes orchestral compositions (two symphonies, symphonic poems) and, in particular, piano compositions – two Piano Concertos and Rhapsody on Ukrainian themes for piano and orchestra and many pieces of different genres, often combined into opus-cycles (preludes, waltzes, mazurkas, variations, etudes, etc.). Lyapunov also created a number of spiritual choirs and many romances, mainly to the words of Russian classical poets.

As a member of the Russian Geographical Society and a well-known folklorist, with his colleague F. M. Istomin Lyapunov was commissioned to travel to remote regions of Russia to collect and record folksongs, which were published in the collection Songs of Russian People in 1899, and also in Lyapunov’s publication of his two volumes of songs accompanied by piano. His set of the Twelve Transcendental Etudes Op.11 dedicated to the memory of Liszt.

Lyapunov enjoyed the respect and acclaim of his contemporaries, both as a performer and a composer. His compositions were warmly received by the public, and received positive reviews from the critics of his time.


You can find and download free scores of the composer:


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