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Anton Arensky

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Anton Arensky, 1895

Anton Stepanovich Arensky (Russian: Анто́н Степа́нович Аре́нский; 12 July [O.S. 30 June] 1861 – 25 February [O.S. 12 February] 1905) was a Russian composer of Romantic classical music, a pianist and a professor of music.



Arensky was born into an affluent, music-loving family in Novgorod, Russia. He was musically precocious and had composed a number of songs and piano pieces by the age of nine. With his mother and father, he moved to Saint Petersburg in 1879, after which he studied composition at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

After graduating from the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in 1882, Arensky became a professor at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his students there were Alexander Scriabin, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Alexander Gretchaninov.[1]

In 1895, Arensky returned to Saint Petersburg as the director of the Imperial Choir, a post for which he had been recommended by Mily Balakirev. He retired from this position in 1901, living off a comfortable pension and spending his remaining time as a pianist, conductor, and composer.

Arensky died of tuberculosis in a sanatorium in Perkjärvi, in what was then the Russian-administered Grand Duchy of Finland, at the age of 44. While very little is known about his private life, Rimsky-Korsakov alleges that drinking and gambling undermined his health.[2] He was buried in the Tikhvin Cemetery.

The Antarctic Arensky Glacier was named after him.



Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was the greatest influence on Arensky's musical compositions. Indeed, Rimsky-Korsakov said, "In his youth, Arensky did not escape some influence from me; later, the influence came from Tchaikovsky. He will quickly be forgotten." The perception that he lacked a distinctive personal style contributed to long-term neglect of his music, though in recent years, a large number of his compositions have been recorded. Especially popular are the Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky for string orchestra, Op. 35a - arranged from the slow movement of Arensky's 2nd string quartet, and based on one of Tchaikovsky's Songs for Children, Op. 54.

Arensky was, perhaps, at his best in the genre of chamber music, in which he wrote two string quartets, two piano trios, and a piano quintet.

Selected works







  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in F minor, Op. 2 [ja] (1881)
  • Symphony No. 1 in B minor, Op. 4 [ru] (1883)
  • Suite No. 1 in G minor, Op. 7 (1885)
  • Intermezzo in G minor, Op. 13 (1882)
  • Symphony No. 2 in A major, Op. 22 (1889)
  • Suite No. 2 'Silhouettes', Op. 23 (originally for 2 pianos, 1892)
  • Suite No. 3 'Variations in C major', Op. 33 (originally for 2 pianos, 1894)
  • Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky, Op. 35a, for string orchestra (1894)
  • Fantasia on Themes of Ryabinin, Op. 48, for piano and orchestra (1899), also known as Fantasia on Russian Folksongs
  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in A minor, Op. 54 (1891)
  • Pamyati Suvorova (To the Memory of Suvorov, 1900)





(for solo piano unless otherwise specified)

  • Suite for Two Pianos No. 1 in F major, Op. 15 (1888)
  • Suite for Two Pianos No. 2, Op. 23, "Silhouettes" (1892), also orchestral version
  • Four Morceaux, Op. 25 (1893)
  • Six Essais sur des rythmes oubliés, Op. 28 (ca. 1893)
  • Suite for Two Pianos No. 3 in C major, Op. 33, "Variations" (pub. 1894), also orchestral version
  • 24 Morceaux caractéristiques, Op. 36 (covering all 24 major and minor keys) (1894)
  • Four Etudes, Op. 41 (1896)
  • Three Morceaux, Op. 42 (1898)
  • Six Caprices, Op. 43 (1898)
  • Près de la mer, six esquisses (sketches), Op. 52 (1901)
  • Six Pieces, Op. 53 (1901)
  • Suite for Two Pianos No. 4, Op. 62 (1903)
  • Twelve Preludes, Op. 63 (1903)
  • Twelve Pieces for Piano four hands, Op. 66 (1903)
  • Arabesques (suite), Op. 67 (1903)
  • Twelve Etudes, Op. 74 (1905)


  • Cantata for the Tenth Anniversary of the Sacred Coronation of Their Imperial Highnesses, Op. 25 (1893)
  • The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, Op. 46, cantata
  • Three Vocal Quartets, Op. 57, with cello accompaniment
  • The Diver, Op. 61, cantata

Solo vocal

  • Romances (4), for voice and piano, Op. 17

Arrangements of Arensky's music

  • Tempo di Valse from the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in A minor, Op.54, arranged for violin and piano by Jascha Heifetz


  1. ^ See: List of music students by teacher: A to B#Anton Arensky.
  2. ^ Nikolai A. Rimski-Korsakov, Moei muzikal'noy zhizni, 1844-1906. St. Petersburg 1909 (Translation in French Archived 2016-04-17 at the Wayback Machine)