The Kennedy Center

Lyadov Anatoly


Russian composer, teacher and conductor Anatoly Lyadov was born in 1855 in St. Petersburg where his father was a conductor at the Maiinsky Theatre.  In 1870 he entered the junior classes of the St Petersburg Conservatory with the piano and the violin as his principal studies. He transferred to Johannsen's classes in counterpoint and fugue, where he developed a lasting interest in contrapuntal techniques. Rimsky-Korsakov recalled that he and Lyadov each wrote a fugue a day on the same subject during the summer of 1878. In 1873 Musorgsky described Lyadov to Stasov as ‘a new, unmistakable, original and Russian young talent'; his songs op.1 date from this time. He was admitted to Rimsky-Korsakov's composition classes, and in 1878 his graduation composition was the final scene from Schiller's Die Braut von Messina, which was performed with great success. Of the many influences on this work, the most interesting is Cui's opera William Ratcliff (1861–8), which had been composed with much help from Balakirev.
In September 1878 Lyadov became a teacher of elementary theory at the conservatory, among his students at this time was the young Prokofiev, who found him likeable but dry and fastidiously pedantic. In the late 1870s he had collaborated with Balakirev and Rimsky-Korsakov in preparing an edition of Glinka's operas.
Many of Lyadov's pieces are essentially a series of variations on pre-existing motifs, such as folksongs (Variations on a Polish Folk Theme op.51; Huit chants populaires russes op.58; numerous arrangements of folk melodies); or a cantus firmus (12 Canons, 1914).
Like Rimsky-Korsakov, he possessed a highly developed sense of orchestral color and gift for musical characterization in an admittedly limited sphere of fable and fantasy. The three descriptive orchestral pieces based on Russian fairy tales, Baba-Yaga, Kikimora and Volshebnoye ozero (‘The Enchanted Lake'), are among his most successful and popular works. Other fine works include the epic piano piece (later orchestrated) Pro starinu (‘About Olden Times'). In the late piano pieces op.64 and his last symphonic piece Skorbnaya pesn?(‘Threnody'), he forms, together with Skryabin, a link with a new generation of composers such as Myaskovsky.
Lyadov was held in great affection by his fellow musicians. Although he never completed a work of any size or scope, the best of his miniatures assure for him a permanent niche in the history of Russian music.
He died in Novgorod in 1914.