Leonid Sabaneyev (1881-1968)

 

Musicologist, music critic, composer, scientist


Leonid Leonidovich Sabaneyev was born in Moscow in 1881 to Leonid Pavlovich Sabaneyev, a famous hunting expert and writer. Leonid graduated in mathematics and physics from Moscow University in 1908. His musical studies were under Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Sergei Taneyev, Nikolai Zverev and Paul de Schlözer at the Moscow Conservatory. Sabaneyev was an enthusiastic advocate of a forthcoming Jewish national school in music: ”The group which is now at work, which appeared suddenly and, as it were, unexpectedly, which has so many external features in common with the Russian national school—this group has many chances of becoming the ”mighty band” of Jewry”

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He wrote some early works, such as incidental music to King Oedipus (1889), a Funeral March in Memory of Beethoven, two trios (including a Trio-Impromptu for violin, cello and piano, Op. 4), piano pieces (including a Piano Sonata, Op. 15) and songs.He then made a special study of Alexander Scriabin, and became an authority on that composer (see synthetic chord). His first book on Scriabin was published in 1916. In addition to his own original works, he transcribed Scriabin's Prometheus: The Poem of Fire for 2 pianos. He founded the Moscow Institute of Musicology. He was both a conservative and a progressive; his ideas included a scale comprising 53 notes and hoped to create a "Laboratory of the Exact Science of Music". He also had several science works on mathematics and zoology.

Sabaneyev left Russia in 1926, after publishing Scriabin (1916, 2/1923), History of Russian Music (1924), The General History of Music (1925), and Music After October (on post-revolution music in Russia). History of Russian Music was translated into German (1926) and received very positive reviews from critics such as Maurice Cauchie. In his later years he lived in Paris, London, the United States, and Nice, where he is buried. His musicological works from this period include Modern Russian Composers (1927), a monograph on Taneyev (1930), and Music for the Films (1935). His students in Paris included the Swedish composers Dag Wirén and Gösta Nystroem. His later musical works included a ballet, a symphonic poem, and the oratorio The Revelation of St John (1940). He also wrote Variations on a Theme of Scriabin, for unknown forces. Sabaneyev died in Cap d'Antibes, France in 1968.

Sabaneyev was an enthusiastic advocate of a forthcoming 'Jewish national school' in music". In his book The Jewish national school in music (1929) he wrote:“…The elements now implanted in the national music permit us to say with truth that some of our hopes have already been justified, the Jewish nation having enriched the musical literature of the world with a fresh, brilliant, and original stream of inspiration… now, when that nation has singled out from itself an intellectual class, it not only can but must speak to the world in a musical language of its own. We have indicated and surveyed the creative musical powers of the Jewish race, but as contemporaries we cannot know the true dimensions of their importance—the historical perspective is not yet revealed to us. But we are justified in assuming that the expansion of this musical culture is already being accomplished. The group which is now at work, which appeared suddenly and, as it were, unexpectedly, which has so many external features in common with the Russian national school—this group has many chances of becoming the "mighty band" of Jewry”