Great Russian musicians – enlighteners and teachers
Today, on Teacher's Day - a holiday that is dedicated to all tutors and educators – our story is about music teachers.
Until the 17th century in Russia, there were two fundamentally different trends in music - Orthodox singing culture and folk singing art. The history of music pedagogy began with the emergence of a new secular musical movement. Musicians are those who not only compose music and perform on stage -- they work in schools, kindergartens, studios, and colleges, teaching children to play various instruments and sing, assisting them to develop their creativity and inborn talent. A teacher at a primary music school is one of the first to introduce young musicians to the wonderful world of sounds and rhythms, means of musical expression, basic musical concepts, laws of musical harmony and nuances of performance technique. The lofty aim of the teacher is not to scare a pupil away from music, but to convey to him the essential purpose for which music exists - the ability, through sounds, to give a listener an emotion or an image.
The history of music education in Russia is closely linked to the Rubinstein brothers. Anton and Nikolai Rubinstein understood the artist's mission as an educational one: their aesthetic goal was not entertaining listeners with virtuosity, the main thing was to enrich the spiritual world and elevate it to ethical and intellectual heights by creative works of great masters. The elder of the brothers, Anton Rubinstein, initiator of the Imperial Russian Music Society concerts and musical evenings (the Rubinstein Saturdays), believed that playing the piano should be compulsory in all comprehensive schools. Nikolai Rubinstein headed the Moscow branch of the Musical Society; in every possible way he contributed to the development of public concert life and musical education. Musical educational institutions (conservatories, colleges) emerged in Russian capitals and in the provinces not on the initiative of the state and not with its assistance, but thanks to the efforts and enthusiasm of numerous and now forgotten patrons that considered it their duty to support the national musical culture.
Obviously, in noble families, children were taught music culture, singing and playing musical instruments. Often they were educated at home. In the 60's, thanks to the activities of brothers Anton and Nikolai Rubinstein and their like-minded colleagues, the tendency to democratize music education and to introduce music as a subject in public schools increased. Anton Rubinstein opened the first Russian Conservatory in St. Petersburg in 1862. Pyotr Tchaikovsky was among his students. The inexhaustible energy allowed him to combine performing, composing, teaching and educational activities.
Nikolai Rubinstein, virtuoso pianist and conductor, played up support in opening the Moscow Conservatory in 1866 and became its first director and professor of the piano class. Rubinstein was a talented teacher and a prominent conductor. Conservatories, of course, did not solve the problems of mass music education and upbringing - tuition was expensive, and the tasks were different. Prior to the 1917 revolution, music education was not mass, systematic and the state was not involved. Musical classical culture remained elite and inaccessible to most segments of society. The activity of both Conservatories developed in close contact, which was determined not only by the commonality of their tasks, but also by the fact that students of the St. Petersburg Conservatory often worked in Moscow, and Muscovites taught at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Through the efforts of the Rubinstein brothers, Russian piano pedagogy acquired enormous prestige and international recognition in the last third of the 19th century. Russian Empire was indebted to them for having taken one of the first places in the teaching of piano playing. Music education theorists and outstanding performers taught in both Conservatoires. In 1871, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was invited to the St. Petersburg Conservatoire as a professor of theory and composition, where he taught practical composition, instrumentation and orchestration. According to the recollections of the Rimsky-Korsakov students (Mikhail Gnessin, Maximilian Steinberg, Jāzeps Vītols, Boris Asafyev and others), he had an impact on students by the charm of his personality and great technical mastery. He observed the time and was scrupulous in his work, requiring the same from his students. Partial summary of Rimsky-Korsakov pedagogical experience was "Practical manual of harmony" (1886) and "Fundamentals of orchestration" (1908). He had also written the articles "About the Music Education" (1892) and "Project for the Transformation of the Programme of Music Theory and Practical Composition Program in Conservatories" (1901). During his 37 years at the Conservatoire, Rimsky-Korsakov brought up a brilliant assemblage of composers representing various art movements (about 200 students in total). Subsequently, the St. Petersburg Conservatoire was named after N. Rimsky-Korsakov.
The 19th century enriched music pedagogy and education with a system of brilliant challenging ideas and, above all, it was the aspiration to educate a comprehensively educated musician through the multifaceted development of his creative individuality.
On the cover: Half hour striking mantel clock “Music lesson”. Samuel Wehl workshop, Hubert Kreitz, Louis-Gabriel Brocot. Russian Empire, Saint-Petersburg. The 1830-1840s