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Alexander Alyabyev

Alexander Alyabyev (1787-1851)

Nationality: Russian
Born: August 15, 1787, Tobolsk Died: March 6, 1851, Moscow (age 63)

Piano Quintet in E-flat major

(for 2 violins, viola, cello and piano)
Duration: 11 minutes (approximately)
Composed: c. 1818 (age 30-31)
Published: 1954
3 recordings, 3 videos
Emil Gilels, Beethoven Quartet
Musica Viva Chamber Orchestra
Vanbrugh Quartet, Solovieva
From Edition Silvertrust

Alexander Alyabiev “Fate is quixotic. Glinka is known as the 'Father of Russian Music', yet Alyabiev began composing his 500 works long before Glinka was on the scene and probably was just as deserving of the title Father of Russian Music. He wrote several operas on Russian subjects long before Glinka did, e.g. Prisoner of the Caucasus based on Pushkin."

The Chamber Music Journal

Alyaviev's Piano Quintet in E flat Major was published for the first time as part of a centennial commemoration of Alyabiev's death. The consensus of scholars dates it from 1818, which in and of itself is noteworthy, as it is therefore one of the very first of its kind. Neither Haydn, Mozart, nor Beethoven ever composed a quintet for piano and string quartet. Dussek, Schubert and a few others wrote piano quintets but they were for piano, violin, viola, cello and bass, and only Schubert's treats the strings as equal to the piano. This further supports the argument that it should be Alyabiev and not Glinka, who was a mere 14 years old at the time this quintet was composed, that should be rightfully considered the father of Russian chamber music. The quintet is only in one movement, which has led casual observes to think it was unfinished. But this is incorrect. Most scholars now believe, after examining both the form of the quintet and the fact that other of his chamber works only have one movement, that the work was only intended to have one movement. This movement is of substantial length and is by turns fiery and exciting and then lyrical. Lasting about 12 minutes, it makes a good choice where a shorter work is required.

Alexander Alyabiev (1787-1851) (also transliterated variously as Aliabiev, Alyabyev, Alabiev, Alaybieff etc.) was born in the Siberian city of Tobolsk which served as the capital of Western Siberia until 1917. At the time of his birth, his father was governor of the province. The family moved to St. Petersburg in 1796 where Alyabiev received piano lessons. He lived a rather romantic life, joining the Tsar’s army to fight against the invading French in 1812. He took part in the Battle of Borodino. It was about this time that his first songs were published. He became a decorated officer and continued to serve with the Army until 1823 after which he lived in St. Petersburg. He was suspected of being a member of the Decembrists, a group which tried to assassinate the Tsar in 1825. Proof was hard to come by so a false charge of murder was lodged against him. After a rigged trial, he was exiled to Siberia until 1832 after which he was allowed to move to the Caucasus for medical reasons. He lived there until 1843 and much of his music shows the influence of this area. He wrote works in virtually every genre and is thought to have penned 3 string quartets, 2 piano trios, a piano quintet, a woodwind quintet and several instrumental sonatas. Today he is remembered for one piece, a song The Nightingale, which became incredibly famous and has remained in the repertoire. His other works, many of which were censored, fell into oblivion and he remained forgotten until Soviet research a century after his death rediscovered him and his music.

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