Alexander Gretchaninov

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Postcard, 1905-1910 of Alexander Gretchaninov

Alexander Tikhonovich Gretchaninov[1] (Russian: Алекса́ндр Ти́хонович Гречани́нов; IPA: [ɐlʲɪˈksandr ɡrʲɪtɕɐˈnʲinəf]; 25 October [O.S. 13 October] 1864, Kaluga – 3 January 1956, New York City) was a Russian Romantic composer.

His life[edit]

Gretchaninov started his musical studies rather late, because his father, a businessman, had expected the boy to take over the family firm. Gretchaninov himself related that he did not see a piano until he was 14 and began his studies at the Moscow Conservatory in 1881 against his father's wishes and without his knowledge. His main teachers there were Sergei Taneyev and Anton Arensky. In the late 1880s, after a quarrel with Arensky, he moved to St. Petersburg where he studied composition and orchestration with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov until 1893. Rimsky-Korsakov immediately recognized Gretchaninov's extraordinary musical imagination and talent and gave him much extra time as well as considerable financial help. This allowed the young man, whose parents were not supporting him, to survive. Out of this came an important friendship, which only ended in 1908 with Rimsky's death. As such, it is not surprising that Rimsky's influence can be heard in Gretchaninov’s early works, such as his String Quartet No.1, a prize-winning composition.

Around 1896, Gretchaninov returned to Moscow and was involved with writing for the theatre, the opera and the Russian Orthodox Church. His works, especially those for voice, achieved considerable success within Russia, while his instrumental works enjoyed even wider acclaim. By 1910, he was considered a composer of such distinction that the Tsar awarded him an annual pension.

Though Gretchaninov remained in Russia for several years after the Revolution, he ultimately chose to emigrate, first to France in 1925, and then, at the age of 75, to the United States in 1939. He remained in the U.S. the rest of his life and eventually became an American citizen. He died in New York at the age of 91 and is buried outside the church at Rova Farms, a Russian enclave in Jackson Township, Ocean County, New Jersey.

Grave of Alexander Gretchaninov

His music[edit]

Gretchaninov wrote five symphonies, the first premiered by Rimsky-Korsakov; four string quartets, the first two of which won important prizes, two piano trios, sonatas for violin, cello, clarinet, piano and balalaika, several operas, song cycle Les Fleurs du Mal, op. 48 (setting lyrics by Baudelaire) and much other music.

Like Vladimir Rebikov, his position in the history of Russian music was mainly transitional, his earlier music belonging firmly in that earlier Romantic tradition while his later work is influenced by some of the streams that also affected Igor Stravinsky and Sergei Prokofiev.

Sketches for an unfinished sixth symphony from the 1940s exist.

He also composed a number of small scale piano pieces.

Most of Gretchaninov's manuscripts reside in the Music Division of New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Selected Works[edit]


  • Concert Overture in D minor (1892)
  • Elegy in Memory of Tchaikovsky (1893)
  • Symphony No. 1, Op. 6 (1894)
  • Cello Concerto, Op. 8 (1895)
  • Incidental Music to the play Tsar Feodor of Tolstoy (1898)
  • Incidental Music to the play The Death of Ivan the Terrible of Tolstoy (1899)
  • Incidental Music to the play Dreams of Danchenko (1899)
  • Funeral March (1905)
  • Symphony No. 2, Op. 27 (1908)
  • In modo antico, Op. 81, for violin & orchestra (1918)
  • Symphony No. 3, Op. 100 (1923)
  • Symphony No. 4, Op. 102 (1927)
  • Violin Concerto, Op. 132 (1932)
  • Rhapsody on Russian Themes, Op. 147 (1940)
  • Symphony No. 5, Op. 153 (1936)
  • Concerto for flute, harp and strings, Op. 159 (1938)
  • Poème élégiaque, Op. 175 (1944 or 1945)
  • A Grand Festival Overture, Op. 178 (1946)
  • Poème lyrique, Op. 185 (1947-48)


  • Dobrynya Nikitich, Op. 22 (1895-1901) after the story of the bogatyr Dobrynya Nikitich.
  • Soeur Béatrice, Op. 50 (1908–10)
  • The Dream of the Christmas Tree Kinderoper, Op. 55 (1911)
  • Der Kater, der Hahn und der Fuchs, Kinderoper, Op. 103 (1924)
  • The Wedding, Op. 180 (1946)

Secular Songs & Choral Music[edit]

  • Snezhiniki (Snowflakes) - Ten Songs from Childhood, Op. 47
  • Lieder (a cycle "Les Fleurs du mal", Op. 48)
  • The Bee: 6 Children's Songs, Op.66 (1914)
  • Under the Waxing Moon, 4 Songs from a Child's World after Poetry by Rabindranath Tagore, Op. 95
  • Sonetti romani, Op. 160, for voice and piano (Russian text)
    • Piazza di Spagna, Op. 160, No. 1
    • Fontana della Tartaruga, Op. 160, No. 2
    • Triton, Op. 160, No. 3
    • Il tramontare del sole al Pincio, Op. 160, No. 4
    • Fontana di Trevi, Op. 160, No. 5
  • Vers la victoire (Toward Victory) (1943)

Liturgical Vocal/Choral[edit]

  • Liturgie Johannes Chrysostomos No. 1, Op. 13 (1897)
  • Liturgy of Christmas Eve, Op. 19, for double mixed choir (1898)
  • Liturgie Johannes Chrysostomos No. 2, Op.29 (1902)
  • Passion Week, Op. 58 (1911)
  • All-Night Vigil, Op. 59 (1912)
  • Kvalite Boga, Op. 65 (1915)
  • Liturgia Domestica (Liturgie Johannes Chrysostomos No. 3), Op. 79 (1917)
  • Missa Oecumenica, Op. 142 (1936)
  • Missa Festiva, Op. 154 (1937)
  • Missa Sancti Spiritus, Op. 169 (1940)
  • Et in Terra Pax, mass, Op. 166 (1942)
  • Liturgie Johannes Chrysostomos No. 4, Op. 177 (1943)

Chamber Music[edit]

  • 2 Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op. 14 (1897)
  • Piano Trio No. 1 in C minor, Op. 38 (1906)
  • String Quartet No. 2 in D minor, Op. 70 (1913)
  • String Quartet No. 3 in C minor, Op. 75 (1915)
  • Violin Sonata No.1 in D major, Op. 87 (1919)
  • Cello Sonata in C minor, Op. 113 (1927)
  • String Quartet No. 4 in F major, Op. 124 (1929)
  • Piano Trio No. 2 in G major, Op. 128 (1931)
  • Violin Sonata No. 2 in C minor, Op. 137 (1933)
  • Sonata for Clarinet or Viola & Piano (Clarinet Sonata No. 1), Op. 161 (1935-40)
  • Clarinet Sonata No. 2, Op. 172(a) (1943)

Piano Music[edit]

  • 2 Piano Sonatinas, Op.110 (1927)
  • Piano Sonata No. 1 in G minor, Op. 129 (1931)
  • Piano Sonata No. 2 in G major, Op. 174 (1944)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Also commonly transliterated as Aleksandr/Alexandre Grechaninov/Gretchaninoff/Gretschaninow


Some of the information on this page appears on the Alexander Gretchaninov page of the Edition Silvertrust website. Permission has been granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gretchaninov, Alexander; Slonimsky, Nicolas (1952). My Life. New York: Coleman-Ross Co.  (contains a catalog of the composer's works, pp. 175–204)

External links[edit]