Belyayev Circle - Intolerance of Non-compliant Composers

Intolerance of Non-compliant Composers

Despite Rimsky-Korsakov's denial of bias among composers of the Belyayev circle, musicologist Solomon Volkov mentions that they and the Five shared a mutual suspicion of compositions that did not follow its canon. This proved especially true of the First Symphony of Sergei Rachmaninoff, a Moscow composer and protege of Tchaikovsky. Rimsky-Korsakov, whose own musical preferences in his later years were not overly progressive, may have sounded an advance warning on hearing the symphony in rehearsal when he told Rachmaninoff, "Forgive me, but I do not find this music at all agreeable". By the reports of many present, the rehearsal that Rimsky-Korsakov had heard, conducted by Glazunov, was both a disaster as a performance and a horrific travesty of the score. The premiere, held in St. Petersburg on March 28, 1897, went no better. Cui wrote in his review of the work, among other things, "If there were a conservatory in Hell, and if one of its talented students were to compose a programme symphony based on the story of the Ten Plagues of Egypt, and if he were to compose a symphony like Mr. Rachmaninoff's, then he would have fulfilled his task brilliantly and would delight the inhabitants of Hell". The symphony was not performed again in Rachmaninoff's lifetime, and while Rachmaninoff did not destroy or disavow the score, he suffered a psychological collapse that led to a three-year creative hiatus.

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