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"The Mighty Handful"

Russian Nationalist Composers


Also known as "The Mighty Five," "The Five," "The Russian Five" or “The Mighty Little Heap;" it refers to a group of Russian composers of the 19th century who wanted to establish a nationalist school of music. The group was formed in the 1860s and the nickname Moguchaya Kuchka (Russian for "The Mighty Little Heap") came from critic Vladimir Stasov. Here are the members of "The Mighty Handful."

1. Mily Balakirev

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Mily Alekseyevich Balakirev was the leader of the group and composed, among others, songs, symphonic poems, piano pieces and orchestral music. It has been mentioned that Balakirev had a reputation of being a tyrant which earned him many enemies during his lifetime.

2. Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov

Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons
Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov is probably the most prolific composer among them. He wrote operas, symphonies, orchestral works and songs. He also became conductor of military bands, director of St. Petersburg's Free Music School from 1874 to 1881 and conducted various concerts in Russia.

3. Modest Mussorgsky

Public Domain Portrait from Wikimedia Commons
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky was a Russian composer who served in the military. Although his father wanted him to pursue a military career, it was evident that Mussorgsky's passion was in music. He wrote operas, songs, piano pieces and melodies. He is especially known for his vivid portrayal of Russian life through his works.

4. Aleksandr Borodin

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Aleksandr Porfiryevich Borodin wrote songs, string quartets and symphonies. His most famous work is the opera "Prince Igor" which was left unfinished when he died in 1887. The said opera was completed by Aleksandr Glazunov and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov.

5. César Cui

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César Antonovich Cui is perhaps the least known member, but he was also one of the staunch supporters of Russian nationalist music. He was a music critic and professor of fortifications at a military academy in St. Petersburg, Russia. Cui is especially known for his songs and piano pieces.

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