December 16, 1932 -
born in Moscow, Russia, composed during the Contemporary period
The son of a music theorist and writer, composer Rodion Shchedrin was encouraged in his musical interests from a very young age. Initial studies at the Moscow Conservatory were interrupted by Russia's participation in World War II, but In 1948 he entered the Moscow Choral School, and three years later he returned to the Conservatory. There he studied piano with Yakov Fliyer and composition with Yuri Shaporin. At the same time, his interest in Russian folk music came to the surface; he led a 1951 trip to Belorussia to collect folk songs, some of which turn up in his early Piano Quintet (1952). Folk songs also play a role in his brilliant Piano Concerto No. 1 (1954), which he wrote and premiered as his graduation composition from the Conservatory.
Not long after his graduation, Shchedrin began what has become one of his best-known works, the ballet Konek-gorbunok (The little humpbacked horse, 1956), which quickly became a staple of the Bolshoi ballet. Another very popular work in Russia was the opera Not love alone (1961). In the mid-'60s, Shchedrin started to incorporate modern sounds and techniques like tone-rows and aleatorics (chance elements) into works like his Symphony No. 2 (1962-1965) and the Piano Concerto No. 2 (1966). Since that time, Shchedrin has consistently exhibited an eclectic taste; elements of the avant-garde, neo-Classicism, folk, jazz, and pop music have all played roles in his music, which he has called "post-avant-garde."
In 1962, Shchedrin was recommended to succeed Tikhon Khrennikov as chairman of the Union of Soviet Composers. In the event, Khrennikov ended up staying in the post, but Shchedrin did later succeed Dmitri Shostakovich as the chairman of the Composers' Union of Russia, and remains its honorary chairman. From 1964 to 1969, Shchedrin taught composition at the Moscow Conservatory, while gaining recognition as one of the most successful Russian composers of his time. Music fans around the world have come to know The Carmen Ballet, his 1968 arrangement of parts of Georges Bizet's Carmen for strings and percussion, produced for his wife, ballerina Maya Plisetskaya. He also wrote the full-length ballet Anna Karenina (1972) for her.
Although elements of Russian Orthodox chants appeared in early works like Chimes (1967) and the Concerto for Orchestra No. 2 (written for the 125th anniversary of the New York Philharmonic), it was not until the 1980s that explicit liturgical themes found their way into works like Stihira (1987) and The Sealed Angel (1988). To date, Shchedrin has written, among many other works, five piano concertos, five concertos for orchestra, and three symphonies; the most recent of these (subtitled "Scenes of Russian Fairy Tales") was premiered in Berlin in June 2000. ~ Chris Morrison, Rovi