Vladimir Shcherbachev

Vladimir Shcherbachev

Vladimir Vladimirovich Shcherbachev, (24 January 1889, Warsaw - 5 March 1952, Leningrad) was a Russian composer of the Soviet era.
He studied with Maximilian Steinberg, Anatoly Lyadov, and Jasep Vitols (Joseph Witol) at the St. Petersburg Conservatory from 1908 on, when A. Glazunov was the director. He graduated in 1914.
While still a student, thanks to Glazunov's recommendation, he had worked as a pianist with Sergey Diaghilev's famous Ballet Russes (1911). He had visited Paris, Monte Carlo, Venice, Rome and London with this troupe and made close acquaintance with the ballets of Igor Stravinsky and Nicolas Tcherepnin, as well as with the music of Debussy, Ravel, Dukas.
Before serving in World War I, he made a second trip abroad during the second half of 1914 to Berlin, Vienna and Italy. During his time in the army, he became friendly with the poet and futurist Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930). They were drawn together by a mutual love of the poetry of the Russian lyrical poet Alexander Blok (1880-1921).
Shcherbachev's Second Symphony (1922-26) is subtitled the Blok Symphony.
Between 1918 - 1923 Shcherbachev worked as director of the 'Petrograd Popular Traveling Theater', for which company he wrote his Nonet op.10 (see Nonet).
He also worked as a lecturer and ran the musical department of the 'Narkompros' (The People's Commissariat for Education). He later became a professor at the Leningrad Conservatory (1923-1931 and 1944-1948) and the Tbilisi Conservatory.
An important part of Shcherbachev's work was for films; Soviet film buffs would know him by the films Groza (1934), Baltiytsy (1937) and the two-part epic Petr I (1939). He also experimented with an oratorio-like piece, Lenin (1929), composed with the help of his students B.Arapov, V.Voloshin, A.Zhivotov, M.Chulaki and M.Yudin.
Connaisseurs of light music will be familiar with Shcherbachev's operetta Tabachnyi Kapitan (N.Aduev), written in 1941, which has held the stage continuously for many decades. Unfortunately, his opera Anna Kolesova (1933-1941), dedicated to the tragic life of the great Russian actress, remained unfinished.
An artist of wide and divergent talents, Shchebachev was also a gifted teacher and left a school of composers behind him in the Leningrad Conservatory among whom are : G.Popov, A.Zhivotov, V.Pushkov, G.Kiladze, M.Yudin, E.Mavrinsky, A.Stepanyan, V.Zhelobinskiy and many others.
In 1930 Shcherbachev fell into disgrace with the authorities and the RAPM, the Russian Association of Proletarian Musicians. He was forced to leave Leningrad (he had to work at the Tiflis Conservatory for three years), but returned in 1933, becoming active in the Leningrad Association of Composers, of which he was elected chairman in 1927.
Since it was impossible to survive writing in the avant-garde style of the 1920s, Shcherbachev began to look for a 'Russian' sound and the somewhat stretched diatonism typical of Soviet music of that time began to appear in his output.
He tried to write music in accordance with the imposed restrictions like the Symphony nr. 4 'Izhorskaya' (1932-35), in which he gave musical expression to the rising Izorshki industry during the revolution of 1905.
In spite of this, Shcherbachev remained under attack of the authorities at the 1948 Party Congress he was blamed for poisoning a whole generation of young composers. Moreover he was discharged from the Leningrad Conservatory.

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