Arensky, Anton Stepanovitch


One of the best known of the younger Russian composers. He inherited his musical ability from both parents, his mother being a fine pianist and his father a violoncellist. His talent developed early, as he tried to write a string quartet at the age of nine, before having any instruction. He first studied composition and harmony with Zikke, afterward entering the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he was a pupil of Rimskykorsakoff. Having graduated from the Conservatory, with honors, in 1882, he was appointed professor of harmony and counterpoint at the Moscow Conservatory. For several years, Arensky conducted the concerts of the Russian Choral Society, and from 1889 to 1893, was a member of the Council of the Synodal School of Church-music at Moscow. From 1894 to 1901 he was director of the Imperial Chapel at St. Petersburg. His first opera, A Dream of the Volga, was a great success and established his reputation as a musician. The Russian folk-songs are used most effectively by him in this composition. Raphael, a one-act work, and a ballet, A  Night in Egypt, followed, but Arensky's best known opera is Nal and Damajanti, the story taken from an East Indian legend. Besides operas, he has composed many works for the orchestra and piano, among them a Fantasie on Russian Epic Chants; the music to Pushkin's poem, The Fountain of Bachtschissarai; and a Memorial March. These works are said to show the influence of Tschaikowsky and Schumann. Arensky also composed a considerable amount of sacred music.