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Cesar Cui


(born: Vilnius, 18 Jan 1835; died: Petrograd, 26 March 1918).

Russian composer and critic of French descent. A military engineer, he entered the musical life of St Petersburg in 1856, when he met Balakirev, who encouraged his talent for opera and helped him with orchestration. He became friendly with the members of the 'Mighty Handful' and fervently advocated nationalist principles, both in his writings for Russian journals and newspapers, for the Revue et gazette musicale de Paris and in his book La musique en Russie (1880). His approach was often bigoted and his wit caustic, yet much of his own music contrasts strikingly with nationalist principles: the 15 stage works from A Prisoner in the Caucasus (1857-8) to the four children's operas (1905-14) reveal the influences of Auber and Meyerbeer, and the vast output of piano pieces and songs, for which he is best known, displays his fascination with Chopin and his ability to express succinctly a poem's sentiments.

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