Link to home page

Khronika zhurnala "Muzykal'nyi sovremennik" = Хроника журнала «Музыкальный современник»

(St. Petersburg, 1915-1917)

Prepared by Marina Ovtcharenko


The Chronicle of the Journal “Musical Contemporary” (Хроника журнала «Музыкальный современник») was published in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) from September 1915 until May 1917 as a biweekly supplement to the quarterly Musical Contemporary. The quarterly features studies on music history and theory, biographies of composers and other materials of a scholarly character; while the supplement contains reports and reviews of concerts and operatic performances. The Musical Contemporary and the Chronicle play an important role in contemporary Russian musical journalism by treating a wide range of issues about Russian and Western music. This period, sharply marked by social turmoil, the result of World War I and the February Democratic Revolution of 1917, is witness to a remarkable development in Russian music, demonstrated in the compositions of Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Rakhmaninov, Glazunov, Nicolai Medtner, and many other outstanding composers and performers. Important musical critics, active contributors to the journal—among them B. V. Asafyev, V. G. Karatygin, L. L. Sabaneyev, and J. Engel—discuss contemporary musical issues and offer differing perspectives.

The Musical Contemporary and the Chronicle received financial support from Pyotr Petrovich Suvchinsky (1892-1985), a prominent music patron, a close friend of Stravinsky and Prokofiev, and an important member of the journal’s “think tank.” Suvchinsky’s support of contemporary musical developments led him into conflict with those collaborators who held more conservative views, and, finally, to withdraw as the journal’s benefactor in March 1917 in protest against the removal of an article by Boris Asafyev which was rejected for “excessive” praise of music by Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Myaskovsky. When Assfyev resigned, Suvchinsky withdrew his patronage, which led to the journal’s demise.

Andrey Nikolayevich Rimsky-Korsakov (1878-1940) was editor-in-chief of the Musical Contemporary and the Chronicle and an occasional contributor. The son of the composer Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov and singer Nina Purgold, he studied the cello and music theory with his father and prominent composer M. O. Steinberg, and philology and philosophy at the universities of St. Petersburg, Strasbourg and Heidelberg. Rimsky-Korsakov contributed satirical reviews in the journal’s “Musical Affairs” section, criticizing the practices of musical theaters and producers—in particular, alterations (cuts) in operas by Glinka and others. As time went by, the diversity of the musical environment and the progressive views of leading contributors (including Asafyev) expanded the publication’s scope. Eventually, the Chronicle became a well-informed source on various aspects and trends of contemporary musical life: the music of the New Russian School, French impressionism, Richard Strauss, Stravinsky and Prokofiev. The journal’s focus was divided between Russia and foreign countries. While the majority of articles treat activities in Petrograd and Moscow, many consider Ekaterinodar, Kiev, Kharkov, Odessa, Tomsk and Tiflis. Owing to the pressure of WWI on the western parts of Russia, many of its eastern locations grew in significance as cultural centers with a rich musical life. Among those, musical life in Perm receives particular attention in a series of articles by Boris Popov.

The work of musical societies including the Imperial Russian Musical Society (RMS), the Jewish Popular Music Society, Skryabin societies and the Patronage Council for the Promotion of Music by Russian composers (also known as Belyaev’s Fund) are discussed in detail. Other frequently reviewed associations and institutions include the People’s Conservatories in Petrograd and Moscow, the Society for People’s Sobriety (with branches in all prominent Russian cities), the House of Song in Moscow, and the Fine Arts, Friends of Music, Chamber Music and Philharmonic societies in Petrograd. Of particular interest are reviews of performances at the Imperial Bolshoi and Mariinsky theaters, Zimin’s private opera in Moscow, the Music Drama Theater and the Opera Theater at the People’s House in Petrograd. The orchestras of the Russian Musical Society, the Imperial Court, the Bolshoy Theater, and Count A. D. Sheremetev, conducted by Alexander Ziloti, Sergey Koussevitsky, Emil Cooper, and Alexander Fitelberg are reviewed extensively.