Alexander Serov

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For the cyclist, see Alexander Serov (cyclist).
Composer Alexander Serov, the posthumous portrait by Valentin Serov, 1887–1888, the Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg

Alexander Nikolayevich Serov (Russian: Алекса́ндр Никола́евич Серо́в, Saint Petersburg, 23 January [O.S. 11 January] 1820 – Saint Petersburg, 1 February [O.S. 20 January] 1871) was a Russian composer and music critic. He is notable as one of the most important music critics in Russia during the 1850s and 1860s and as the most significant Russian composer of opera in the period between Dargomyzhsky's Rusalka and the early operas by Cui, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, and Tchaikovsky.

Alexander Serov was the father of Russian artist Valentin Serov.


Grave of Alexander Serov in Tikhvin Cemetery in Saint Petersburg.

Alexander Serov's maternal grandfather, Carl Ludwig Hablitz,[1][2][3][4] was a botanist and a German Jew, who moved from Germany to Russia in the 18th century, as was common at the time, since Russia invited many European experts, including scientists, musicians, physicians, etc. in order to catch up with European developments. In Russia, he became a member of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Serov’s father was a lawyer and held an important position.[5] He wanted Serov to become a lawyer as well and sent him to law school.[5] Eventually Serov lost interest in law and developed an interest in music. Additionally, he became a friend of another law school student, Vladimir Stasov,[1][5][6] who eventually became a famous art critic.[7] Serov and Stasov spent more time studying music than studying law.

Serov completed his studies in 1840 and started working as a lawyer. Eventually, his interest in music prevailed, and in 1850 he quit his job and began to compose music and to write articles. He also gave music lectures which were quite popular.[1] In particular, he introduced a variety of music terms into the Russian language. Additionally, he was the first to use the term simfonizm which eventually gained international significance.[8] In 1863, Alexander Serov married his student Valentina Bergman.[2] In 1871, he unexpectedly died of a heart attack. His widow finished his last opera and published his articles.

As a composer, Serov is notable for composing operas. His first opera, Judith, was first performed in 1863. Although Serov's operas Judith and Rogneda were quite successful at the time, none of his operas are frequently performed today.[9] A CD recording of Judith (with some cuts) was made in 1991 by the orchestra and choir of the Bolshoi Theatre under conductor Andrey Chistiakov.

Whereas Serov was an acclaimed critic and composer, his relation with fellow intellectuals were sometimes far from ideal. For example, he and Stasov became enemies over the relative values of Glinka's two operas.[1] Serov's admiration for Richard Wagner likewise did not endear him to The Mighty Handful, the principal group of Russian composers, mainly due to efforts of the younger competing critic César Cui, who, like Stasov, had been on better terms with Serov earlier.[1]




  1. ^ a b c d e "Александр Серов (Alexander Serov)" (in Russian). Классическая музыка. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Медовар, Лазарь (1999). Валентина Серова: служение музыкальной культуре (in Russian). Лехаим. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Габлиц, Карл Иванович (in Russian). Great Encyclopedic Dictionary. 2000. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Габлиц, Карл Иванович (in Russian). Russian Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c Назаров, А. Александр Николаевич Серов (in Russian). Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  6. ^ Юдифь (in Russian). Библейский сюжет. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  7. ^ Maes, Francis (2002). Geschiedenis van de Russiche muziek. University of California Press. p. 40. ISBN 0520218159. 
  8. ^ Musical dictionary / Музыкальный словарь // СИМФОНИЗМ
  9. ^ Apel, Willi (1969). Harvard dictionary of music. Harvard University Press. p. 745. ISBN 0674375017. 


  • Taruskin, Richard. Opera and Drama in Russia As Preached and Practiced in the 1860s. New ed. Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 1993.

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