Anton Arensky

Russian composer Anton Arensky (1861–1906) was born into an affluent, music-loving family in Novgorod, Russia. He was musically precocious and had composed a number of songs and piano pieces by the age of nine. In 1879, his family moved to Saint Petersburg, where he studied counterpoint, harmony, composition and instrumentation with Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory.
Right after his graduation in 1882, the twenty-one-year-old talent was invited to be a teacher of theoretical disciplines at the Moscow Conservatory, where he soon became a professor. Among his students there were Alexander Scriabin, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Alexander Gretchaninov.
In 1895, Arensky returned to Saint Petersburg as the director of the St. Peterburg Court Chapel. In 1901, he left this position and, thanks to the sizable pension he was receiving, was able to dedicate the rest of his life entirely to composition and his concert activities as a pianist and conductor. He died at the age of 44.
The perception that he lacked a distinctive personal style contributed to long-term neglect of his music, though in recent years, a large number of his compositions have been recorded. Especially popular are the Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky for string orchestra, Op. 35a – arranged from the slow movement of Arensky’s 2nd string quartet. He was, perhaps, at his best in the genre of chamber music, in which he wrote two string quartets, two piano trios, and a piano quintet.
Arensky was also known as the author of the first methodological books on harmony and form in Russia, including the “Collection of 1000 tasks for the practical study of harmony”, which has not lost its educational relevance even today.

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