Composer and conductor Leonid Polovinkin -- under the heading "Desuete Names"
Composing music is not only an urge of character or temperament,
but every time it is a new task, a new responsibility set to oneself.
Leonid Polovinkin - composer, pianist, conductor, teacher and public figure, was born on August 13, 1894 in Tobolsk province. Leonid's father, Alexei Petrovich -- an engineer by education -- was engaged in laying railroads. Over time, the family moved to Moscow. The boy mother, Anna Gerasimovna was originally from the wealthy merchants Morosovs family. She was the first music teacher for her son. Leonid studied playing the violin and the piano. In 1906, he wrote his first compositions -- small pieces for the piano. The same year the boy was enrolled directly into the second grade of the Polivanov Gymnasium on Prechistenka -- the most renowned educational institution in Moscow.
The young composer composed his first serious piece of music, a waltz, in 1912 and published it in 1927. During his studies at the gymnasium Leonid learned English, French, German and Latin languages, was fond of drawing and sports. The young man's parents wanted him to receive an education that would provide him with a stable job and a decent income in the future, so after graduating from the gymnasium the future musician entered the Faculty of Law of Moscow University. However, fascinated by music, the young man also enrolled in the Moscow Conservatory. Parallel to the piano class, he also began studying at the faculty of musical theory and composition. His teachers were Nikolai Myaskovsky, Reinhold Glière and Georgy Catoire. Before receiving a diploma of higher musical education, Leonid began teaching at the Alexander Scriabin Music Technical School and then at the Conservatoire. Together with Dmitry Kabalevsky and Lev Mazel, he prepared for publication the first part of his teacher Catoire unfinished work “Musical Form”. After Leonid graduated from the Conservatory with two specializations his name as one of the best graduates was immediately inscribed on the honor board in the foyer of the Small Hall of the Conservatory. From 1924, Leonid Polovinkin was the secretary of Association for Contemporary Music (ACM). In the 1920s he became one of the leaders of early Soviet "urban" modernism: the piano cycle "Happenings" (7 pieces, 1920-1925), the foxtrot "Electrifikat" (1925) and other works. Polovinkin created four works under the title "Telescope". All of them are a kind of orchestral fantasies written for different orchestras, but with a certain idea ─ observation of the distant. For example, "Telescope II" is saturated with Latin American intonations. The only formalized theoretical study of the composer was a small article entitled "Note on the Musical Form Methodology". It was created in May 1927.
He was one of the first composers to introduce into the scores of symphonic works specific techniques of sound production on wind instruments that created noise effects. In the symphony for children “Volodya, the Musician”, for example, such techniques performed a pictorial function and emphasized the narrator's text. In 1926, Leonid Polovinkin received invitations from several theatrical companies, including the Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theater, the Stanislavsky Opera Studio-Theater and the Moscow Theater for Children founded by Natalya Sats. He chose the latter and worked on the "children's" stage for about 15 years as head of the musical section, composer and conductor. He took an active part in the premiere the symphonic fairy tale “Petya and the Wolf” by Sergei Prokofiev, which was written on the initiative of Natalya Sats.
In the late 20s and early 30s, the relationship between the authorities and avant-garde artists began to change for the worse: accusatory articles appeared, some composers were harassed, and the ACM association was disbanded.
Unlike some composers of the time who had ceased to be interested in jazz, Leonid Alekseevich continued to incorporate elements of this style into compositions even in the late 1930s, when jazz had become unpopular and was considered hostile. He also introduced jazz themes into classical and romantic piano and symphonic works.
He composed music for cinema and theater, for example, he wrote music for the play “Turandot” directed by Yevgeny Vakhtangov. The name of Polovinkin as a composer is usually associated primarily with children's theater music. However, this is not the only area of his creative work. Piano, chamber- instrumental, symphonic and theater music were equally significant in the creative life of Polovinkin; they coexisted organically, influencing each other. In the 1930s-1940s, Polovinkin also worked on music for films, which can be considered a characteristic feature of composer's work at that time.
In the 1930s and 1940s Polovinkin continued to write instrumental compositions. Their number even exceeds the number of his theater opuses. During the war the composer was in evacuation, in 1943 he returned to Moscow. In 1947-1948 he worked as head of the musical section and conductor at the Mossovet Theater. In 1948, after the resolution of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks "Concerning the opera "The Great Friendship" by Vano Muradeli", he was accused of "formalism".
The composer lived less than 55 years, but managed to write many original works, some of which are groundbreaking. The phenomenon of Leonid Polovinkin became possible due to his excellent musical education, extraordinary innate abilities, open mindedness, curiosity and track of time. That is why his music to this day is a vivid reflection of the era in which the musician happened to live and create. Unfortunately, a huge part of his creative legacy has been nowadays. Only thanks to the efforts of musicians, musical ensembles and various institutions, the pieces composed by Leonid Polovinkin have once again sounded on the concert stage*.
The composer passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly on February 8, 1949 in Moscow, on his way to the theater. He was buried at the Novodevichy Cemetery.
Musical selection of compositions by Leonid Polovinkin is posted in the museum Sound Library.
*The Pyotr Vostokov Big Jazz Orchestra presented a concert program "Jazz with Russian Soul" at the Moscow International House of Music. The concert program was prepared by Radio "Orpheus" and the FIRCON Foundation for Innovative Development of Culture, Education and Science as part of “The Unknown Names of Russian Jazz” project supported by the Presidential Foundation for Cultural Initiatives.