Leonid Polovinkin

Leonid Alekseevich Polovinkin (1 Aug. 1894, Kurgan - 8 Feb. 1949, Moskou), Russian composer and pianist. His family moved from Kurgan, a small Siberian town, where his father was a railway engineer, to Moscow when Polovinkin was two years old. As a boy, he began studies on the piano and the violin. In 1918 he graduated from the Faculty of Law in Moscow University and in 1924 from the Moscow Conservatory, which he had entered in 1914. He stayed at the conservatory for postgraduate studies until 1926, investigating formal analysis. Subsequently, he taught orchestration at the conservatory from 1926 to 1932. Simulaneously, he took part, in Leningrad, in the establishment of the 'Monumental'niy Teatr Opery i Baleta', known as the 'Mamont' (Mammoth) and was also music director at the 'Aleksandrinsiy Theater'.
From 1918 onward he began to concertize as a pianist. His command of a number of languages gave him a wide cultural base, which included History, Literature and philosophy, and allowed him to read classics in their original languages.
In 1923 he formed an unofficial circle of composers with Shebalin, Kryukov and Shirinskiy. From 1924 he fulfilled the function of secretary in the Association of Contemporary Music (ASM), where his committee colleagues were Myaskovky, Prokofiev, Shebalin, Shostakovitch, Aleksandrov and Mosolov. This Association wasn't very avantgardistic, but they were responsable for the contact with Western Europe, inviting many western musicians and composers to Russia.
In 1927 one of Polovinkin's most advanced works (Prologue) was played at a memorial concert celebrating the Oktober Revolution (1917); also on the program were pieces by Shostakovich (2nd Symphony), Roslavetz and Mosolov ('Steel').
He was also involved in an ambitious project of the Bolshoi Theatre (1928/29) : a composite ballet entitled Chetyre Moskvy (The Four Moscows), a futurist imagination of what Moscow would be like in 1568 (the year of Ivan the Terrible), 1818, 1918 and 2117, composed by respectively Leonid Polovinkin, Anatoly Alexandrov, Dmitri Shostakovich and Alexander Mosolov, but nothing ever came of the project.
Polovinkin began his musical life with some dependence of the sound of Scriabin and possibly Brahms, but his work within the ASM opened up new vistas and he discovered a language molded to some extent by 'Les Six' and Schoenberg and tempered by his love of jazz.
Between 1925 and 1929, at least about 15 of Polovinkins compositions were published in the west by Universal Edition, Vienna.


Larry Sitsky : Music of the Repressed Russian Avant-Garde, 1900-1929
                     Greenwood Press, 1994