virtually no instrumental music before Tsar Peter the Great ascended the throne
in 1682. The Russian orthodox church strictly forbad instruments in churches and
discouraged their use everywhere else. In churches, monophonic chant was the
rule, then polyphonic chant from about 1600.
Tsar Peter the Great built a magnificent
City, St Petersburg, on swampland. He employed foreign musicians to develop
bands and instrumental musicians for his court. The taste for music developed
rapidly, and Haydn's music, as well as that of other classical composers, was
regularly performed in St Petersburg. The first distinctly Russian composer to
emerge was Glinka.(1804-1857).
Russian music really flowered in the 2nd
half of the 19th century. The group of five, Balakirev,
Rimsky-Korsakov and Cui, composed in a distinctively Russian style, involving
elements of Russian folk music. Tchaikovsky tended more to the romantic Germanic
style, but he also was influenced to a lesser extent by the Russian
After the Russian revolution in 1917, and the
establishment of the authoritarian communist regime under Lenin, the most
eminent composers escaped to the West, including
However, the most famous Russian of the 20th century,
Stravinsky, was already abroad in Paris, so he stayed there, and later
emigrated to the USA. By contrast, Shostakovich stayed in the Soviet Union, and managed to survive the
censoring of the Stalinist Composer's Union, by complying with their directives,
and withholding works of which he knew they would not approve.