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Muzykal’ny listok = Музбікальій Листок

(St. Petersburg, 1872-1877)

Prepared by Lilia Suslova and Irina Torilova


Muzykal’ny listok [Музбікальій Листок / The Musical Leaf], published weekly in St. Petersburg from 3 September 1872 to 5 June 1877, appeared on Sundays during the nine-month Russian musical season, from September/October to May/June. The journal’s purpose was to offer an in-depth view of the many aspects of Russian and foreign musical life. Vasily Vasil’yevich Bessel (1843-1907), the journal’s publisher and sole editor was founder of the thriving publishing firm V. Bessel and Co. published works by prominent Russian composers, notably Tchaikovsky, A. Rubinstein, Dargomyzhsky and the members of the New Russian Musical School—Musorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Cui, Balakirev, and Borodin. The journal’s articles—which reflect Bessel’s wide-ranging musical interests—are written in an objective manner. Most deal with music by Russian and foreign composers, and musical life both at home and abroad.

The journal’s lead articles focus on theoretical and historical and are written by several noted authors including Herman Laroche (“Historical Method of Teaching Music Theory,” “About What is Right in Music,” “Fétis père as Music Historian”); the violoncellist Karl Yul’yevich Davydov (“Some Effects Following from the Violoncello’s Fifth Pitch System”); and, the critic A. S. Famintsyn (“About the Chorus in Opera”) as well as by V. Bessel, V. A. Chechott, and N. F. Solov’yov. Some articles are translations of works by foreign authors, including Richard Pohl (“Development and Purpose of Opera”), Richard Wagner (“Notes of the Structure of Modern German Opera”), and Edward Hanslick, (“Modern Opera”). Reviews of major productions or premières at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre, at the Court Opera Theatre in Vienna, and, at the Bayreuth Festival were also published as lead articles.

Reviews and criticism are found under two rubrics, “Chronicle” (later “Petersburg Chronicle”) and “Correspondence.” The “Chronicle” column contains reviews of symphonic and quartet concerts (“meetings”) organized by the Russian Musical Society, and of Russian and Italian opera productions at the Imperial Theatres. From 14 October 1873 until January 1876 Famintsyn was responsible for these columns. In 1877 M. M. Ivanov assumed responsibility for the “Petersburg Chronicle.” The “Correspondence” column contains reports of musical life—and particularly about the activities organized by branches of the Russian Musical Society—as well as reviews of theatrical productions both in Russian towns (Kronshtadt, Nizhny Novgorod, Orel, Odessa, Voronezh, Kazan, Vilno, Moscow, Kiev, Kharkov, Tver, Poltava) and abroad (Vienna, New York, Milan, Boston, Brussels, Cologne, London, Paris, Venice, Rome, Prague). Correspondents include A. S. Razmadze in Moscow, P. Bel’chenko in Poltava, P. P. Sokal’sky in Odessa. Many others who signed with pseudonyms remain unidentified.

The “Bibliography” column contains reviews of published music by Russian composers: Dargomyzhsky, Cui, Tchaikovsky, Balakirev, A. Rubinstein and Napravnik. Contributors to this section demonstrate an unbiased attitude and select compositions based upon their perceived quality.

Other columns entitled “News,” “Obituary,” “Reference List of the Famous Artists’ Residences,” “Various News from Russia,” “Foreign News” and “Russian Artists Abroad” contain brief surveys of musical events. Reports came from large Russian cities and foreign capitals and from far-off places in Siberia and China, America and Canada. At times the “Russian Artists Abroad” section contains extensive reviews devoted to the activities of Russian instrumentalists and singers—Anton Rubinstein, Esipova, Muromtseva, Lavrovskaya, Belocca, Platonova, and Krutikova—all performing in European cities. “Announcements” contains advertisements for sheet music and books on music published by V. Bessel and Co. and other Russian musical firms (Bitner’s Musical Shop and Becker’s Piano Factory in St. Petersburg), as well as by foreign music publishers (Reitter-Biedermann, Forberg, Breitkopf und Härtel, Aibl, Ebner, Hartmann).

Attention is given to the St. Petersburg Conservatory’s curriculum, entrance requirements, examination schedules, personnel, final exam results of graduating students, and reports of the directors. Readers are introduced to music education from an international perspective, with information about conservatories in Paris, Brussels, Leipzig, Berlin, and Vienna. Articles about musical education include “Note on Singing Teaching at School” by N. P. Bryansky and “Historical Method of Musical Teaching” by Laroche.

The prominent musical critic Laroche was one of the principal collaborators. His articles, which appear in thirty-three issues, display objectivity. Reviews by Laroche are devoted to Tchaikovsky, A. Rubinstein, Napravnik, Cui, Azanchevsky. V. V. Bessel contributed articles about the music printing business, copyright and orchestral performing, including “About Music and Publishing Activities in Russia” and “The Problem of the Working Conditions of Musicians.” Other collaborators were the music critic, composer, pianist and teacher A. S. Razmadze and V. A. Chechott—prominent representatives of progressive musical ideas in the Russian provinces. Both support the New Russian Musical School. Among Chechott’s writings are reviews of works by N. V. Shcherbachyov, A. S. Famintsyn, E. F. Napravnik, and an article on Verdi’s Aida and the Requiem. Music critic, theorist and composer Famintsyn represents another trend of Russian musical journalism, holding conservative views and protesting against the New Russian School. From September 1873 to January 1876 Famintsyn wrote about musical activities in St. Petersburg offering detailed analyses of Russian and foreign works. Other writers in The Musical Leaf were M. M. Ivanov and N. F. Solov’yov, a composer, critic, and professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. In the history of Russian music criticism they were known as opponents of the New Russian School.