Mily Balakirev studied piano as a child, first from his mother and later while a student at the Nizhny Novgorod Gymnasium, Alexandrovsky Institute, and University of Kazan.
Balakirev met composer Mikhail Glinka in St. Petersburg in 1855. Glinka encouraged him to pursue a career in music. From Glinka he gained a passion for Russian nationalism in his music.
Balakirev is responsible for gathering the composers who would come to be known as The Mighty Five: Modest Mussorgsky in 1858, Nikolai RImsky-Korsakov in 1861, and Alexander Borodin in 1862.
This section presents a sampling of Mily Balakirev's compositions. Click here for an extended list of Balakirev's works.
Islamey is an oriental fantasy for solo piano. Along with Tamara, Islamey is an example of the orientalist style also employed by Mikhail Glinka in his opera Ruslan and Liudmila.
Balakirev considered Islamey to be a study in preparation for his symphonic poem Tamara.
Click here to listen to a performance of Islamey.
Tamara is a symphonic poem that also mirrors the orientalist style. The piece is considered to be some of Balakirev's best work. Tamara was inspired by Mikhail Lermontov's poetry; the poem tells the story of a seductress who draws in travelers to her tower at the gorge of Daryal. After a night of pleasure, the traveler's body is found dead, floating in the River Terek.
Click here to listen to a performance of Tamara.