César Cui was born in Vilna Governorate in 1835. His father - Anton Cui was a Frenchman, and after the campaign of 1812, he settled in Russia - he taught French in a local gymnasium. When his had vacant hours, Anton Cui served as organist in one of the city churches, and he played the piano and composed music at home. At the age of 6, César Cui began to pick up the tunes of military marches that he heard on the street by ear. Seeing the boy’s interest in the piano, his older sister began to teach him music. Later, César Cui studied with private teachers and soon began to write melodies himself. The first work - a mazurka in G minor - he wrote at the age of 14. Later, the young composer became interested in the music of Frederic Chopin and, inspired by his work, composed nocturnes and romances. Composer Stanisław Moniuszko, the author of the first national operas and pieces for Polish orchestras, taught the gifted boy the theory of music and composition pro-bono. Anton Cui supported his son’s passion. However, he wanted César Cui to receive a profession that would provide him with a stable income and presentable position in society. In 1850, the young musician entered the St. Petersburg Engineering School, and after 5 years - the Nikolaev Military Engineering Academy. After moving to St. Petersburg, César Cui was carried away by opera and visited theaters often. He worked on his first opera “Vastseliina Castle”. Cui did not finish this opera, but a year later, he created music for "The Prisoner of the Caucasus" based on the poem by Alexander Pushkin.
In 1861, “The New Russian School of Music” appeared in St. Petersburg. César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Mily Balakirev, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin were the members of the group. The association was called “The Balakirev Circle” and “The Russian Five”, and more often “The Mighty Handful”. The composers studied folklore, Russian liturgical singing, and the work of famous musicians. At the meetings of the circle, the technique of performing musical pieces and their artistic value were analyzed. Cui later wrote that they "solved great artistic problems" by studying musical art and creating new pieces at the same time.
During these years, Caesar Cui wrote the opera “William Ratcliff” based on the work by Heinrich Heine. The opera premiered in 1869 at the Mariinsky Theater. In 1885, the premiere of "The Prisoner of the Caucasus" was held in the city of Liege - this was the first Russian production on the Belgian stage.
In Belgium, César Cui wrote the opera “Le Flibustier” based on the lyrical comedy of Jean Richepin. It was staged several years later at the Paris Comic Opera. After the premiere, César Cui was elected a corresponding member of the Institute of France and awarded with the Commander Cross of the Legion of Honor Order. César Cui created not only operas, but chamber works as well - romances to the verses by Alexander Pushkin and Apollon Maikov, vocal quartets, works for the choir, music for children's operas: “The Snow Knight”, “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Puss in Boots”. Simultaneously with musical creativity, Cui wrote articles on famous works of Russian composers for the Russian and foreign magazines. Later, these materials were published in the book by César Cui “Music in Russia” - the first work about Russian music. The book was published in Europe and gained popularity. Carried away by music, César Cui did not leave military service. From the moment he graduated from the academy, he taught in the lower grades of the St. Petersburg Engineering School. He lectured on the theme of military fortifications of Nicholas II and wrote many works on the art of war.
Many officers of the Russian army studied according to these textbooks. After the Balkan Wars, César Cui wrote “The Engineering Officer Traveling Notes at the Scene of Operations”. This work was translated into many languages, and Cui became a well-known specialist in fortification. He received the title of professor and the rank of major general. Due to his equally passionate and professional passion for composition and military art, César Cui received the nickname “General from music”. When Cui was 69 years old, he was promoted to general engineer. After the October Revolution, César Cui joined the Red Army, continuing to teach at three military academies. He died in Petrograd in March 1918. César Cui was buried at the Tikhvin Cemetery (Necropolis of Artists).