Overture to "Tsar Boris"

From Wind Repertory Project
Vasily Kalinnikov

Vasily Kalinnikov (trans. Donald Patterson)

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General Info

Year: 1898 / 2012
Duration: c. 9:40
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: U.S. Marine Band
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Sickness and privation haunted the young Russian composer Vasili Kalinnikov for the entirety of his tragically short life. Initially, his studies at the conservatory level sputtered due to a lack of financial stability. But when he won a bassoon scholarship to the Moscow Philharmonic Society Music School in 1884, he was able to study with composers Alexander Ilyinsky and Pavel Blaramberg until 1892. While in music school Kalinnikov continued to face serious poverty, despite playing bassoon, violin, and timpani in theater orchestras, giving private music theory lessons, and fulfilling copy-work for other composers.

Kalinnikov’s close friend S. N. Kruglikov, along with other contemporary Russian composers Peter I Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rachmaninoff, were especially supportive of young Kalinnikov’s compositional talents. In 1892 Tchaikovsky recommended him to be the conductor of the Malïy Theater in St. Petersburg, and soon after he also became the assistant conductor at the Italian Theater in Moscow. However, within a few short months, Kalinnikov’s continued struggle with tuberculosis necessitated his resignations so that he could move to Yalta, Crimea, with hopes that the warmer climate would aid his recovery. While in Yalta, Kalinnikov composed his incidental music to Tsar Boris (1898). The ensuing overture and shorter Entr’actes are based on the 1870 dramatic tragedy of the same name by Alexei Konstantinovich Tolstoy (second cousin of Leo Tolstoy).

The overture displays Kalinnikov’s dynamic and evocative musical writing that often draws from Russian folksong. Defined by stately themes, powerful brass fanfares, and expansive lyrical lines, the overture’s style echoes the sounds of contemporaneous Russian composers such as Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov while still presenting a distinctive voice. Its epic scope offers a hint of how Kalinnikov may have developed as a composer into later adulthood, had his years not been cut short.

MGySgt Donald Patterson transcribed this orchestral work for the Marine Band in 2012.

- Program Note from United States Marine Band concert program, 8 June 2017


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State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Ryan J. Nowlin, conductor) – 8 June 2017

Works for Winds by This Composer


None discovered thus far.