Anatoly Liadov (1855-1914) was a Russian composer and music professor. His father was the conductor at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. Anatoly studied music at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, then a newly-founded school. Initially, he studied piano and violin, but he soon became interested in music composition. He went on to teach at the Conservatory.
Liadov's compositions fall into the category of 'Russian nationalist' music. His short orchestral works include tone poems and dances. Many of his works were either intended for use in ballet or chosen for dance interpretations by choreographers. Ironically, Liadov may be best known for the famous ballet music he didn't write, 'The Firebird.' When Liadov couldn't produce a score in time, the ballet producer turned to a new young composer, Igor Stravinsky, to provide the music instead.
Listening to Liadov's orchestral music, one hears the influence of Rimsky-Korsakov (one of his teachers) in the skillful use of instrumental colors. He liked to blend the dark sound of the bassoons with other woodwind timbres. The way phrases build in his music is sometimes reminiscent of Tchaikovsky, but traces of Wagner and French composers are also evident. Liadov's 'Baba Yaga' (for example) is quite similar to 'The Sorceror's Apprentice' by Paul Dukas (popularized by Mickey Mouse).
Liadov was a conservative orchestrator, not particularly interested in pushing the technical boundaries of instruments. Therefore, his orchestral music is quite suitable for college and community orchestras, as long as they have a full complement of wind players.
A festival of music by Anatoly Liadov will be presented at the New England Conservatory of Music's Jordan Hall in Boston in February, 2005, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth.
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