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Nikolai Korndorf (1947-2001); RUS

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Nikolai Korndorf

Nikolai Korndorf was born in Moscow on January 23, 1947. He studied conducting and composition at the State Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, receiving his doctorate in composition in 1973. From 1972 to 1991 he was a professor of composition at the Conservatory. He was a member of the Russian Composers' Union and the Moscow Presidium of the Soviet Composers' Union, as well as a co-founder and Deputy President of the New Association for the Contemporary Music of Russia (ACM). In 1991, Korndorf left Russia for Vancouver, Canada, where he lived and worked until his untimely death, on May 20, 2001. During his Canadian period, Korndorf was an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Center and an Associate of the Canadian League of Composers.

Korndorf was a prolific and eclectic composer - writing one opera (MR, Marina and Rainer), as well as theater, orchestral, choral, and chamber works. He completed three symphonies and three orchestral "Hymns" - the first of which is featured here at the Classical Archives. He enjoyed writing for unconventional ensembles, such as twelve saxophones, fifteen percussionists, etc. In Korndorf's own words, "[my music] typically addresses very serious topics: philosophical, religious, moral, the problems of a person's spiritual life, his relationship with the surrounding world, the problem of beauty and its relationship with reality, as well as the problem of loftiness and meaning in human beings and in art, relationship of the spiritual and the anti-spiritual. All this means that most of my works were written not for fun and in no way can be classified as entertainment. As much as possible I strive to ensure that every one of my works contains a message to each listener and that my music leaves no one indifferent, but aroused with an emotional response. I even accept that at time my music arouses negative emotions - as long as it is not indifference."

Given his non-conformist aesthetic, Korndorf had some difficulties getting his music performed in Russia during the Soviet era, with some exceptions - including in the "Moscow Autumn" and "Alternativa" festivals. At the same time, his music was being performed with some regularity in music festivals elsewhere in Europe, especially Germany - including "Munich Biennial," "Frankfurt Feste," "Berliner Festwochen," the "Scheleswig-Holstein Musik Festival," the Duisburg Festival, the "Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik," "Steirischer Herbst" (Austria), the Netherlands Festival, Krzysztof Penderecki's International Music Festival (Poland), "Mask in Art" (Greece), and the Zagreb Biennial; as well as the "Making Music Festival" (USA) and the Vancouver International New Music Festival. In addition, his works were scheduled in frequent concerts in Canada, the US, Australia, Asia, and New Zealand. His works were performed by such leading ensembles as the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, the Concertgebau Orchestra, the BBC Orchestra, the Symphony Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, and L'Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal.


"This gleaming piece [Hymn II] is recognizably minimalist in its radically reduced material, but the composer said that he had modeled it on the solemn doxologies of the Russian Orthodox Church. And its liturgical character derives not only from actual liturgical sources but also, and at least as much, from the familiar Russian glory-music of the concert and opera stages. (Imagine Gorecki arranged by Rimsky- Korsakov, or a diatonic "Poem of Ecstasy.") One can believe that such a synthesis would have occurred only to a Russian composer without buying into the biology-is-destiny mystique of nationalism."

New York Times (Richard Taruskin)

Nikolai Korndorf

Nikolai Nikolai Korndorf was born in Moscow on January 23, 1947. He studied conducting and composition at the State Tchaikovsky Conservatory... More
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