Nicholas walker

Why did Balakirev’s beautiful, inventive works go out of fashion?

Anyone who invited the Russian composer Mily Balakirev to dinner had to be jolly careful about the fish they served. How had it died? Balakirev — mentor of Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov and regarded as the founder of the Russian nationalist school of music — would want to know. If the fish had perished on a hook, then he wouldn’t touch it. But if it had been clubbed on the head, fine. The many eccentricities of Balakirev (1837–1910) were regarded with amusement, horror and dismay by his contemporaries. Though, to be fair, the fish thing wasn’t a mad obsession of his own. Formerly an atheist, in his thirties he converted to