Tikhon Khrennikov

Tikhon Khrennikov (1913–2007) was a Russian and Soviet composer, pianist, and General Secretary of the Union of Soviet Composers (1948–1991), who was also known for his political activities. During the 1930s, Khrennikov was already being hailed as a leading Soviet composer. In 1948, Andrei Zhdanov, the leader of the anti-formalism campaign, nominated Khrennikov as Secretary of the Union of Soviet Composers. He held this influential post until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Tikhon Khrennikov was the youngest of ten children, born into a family of horse traders in the town of Yelets, Oryol Governorate, Russian Empire (now in Lipetsk Oblast in central Russia). He learned guitar and mandolin from members of his family and sang in a local choir in Yelets. There he also played in a local orchestra and learned the piano. As a teenager he moved to Moscow. From 1929 to 1932, he studied composition at the Gnessin State Musical College under Mikhail Gnessin and Yefraim Gelman. From 1932 to 1936, he attended the Moscow Conservatory. There he studied composition under Vissarion Shebalin and piano under Heinrich Neuhaus. As a student, he wrote and played his Piano Concerto No. 1, and his graduation piece was the Symphony No. 1. His first symphony was conducted by Leopold Stokowski. He became popular with the series of songs and serenades that he composed for the 1936 production of Much Ado About Nothing at the Vakhtangov Theatre in Moscow.
By the 1930s, Khrennikov was already treated as a leading Soviet composer. Typical was his speech during a discussion in February 1936 concerning Pravda articles “Muddle Instead of Music” and “Balletic Falsity”:
Together with other representatives of Soviet culture (Nikolay Chelyapov, Nikolai Myaskovsky, Nikolay Chemberdzhi, Sergei Vasilenko, Victor Bely, Alexander Veprik, Aram Khachaturian, Boris Shekhter, M. Starodokamsky, Georgy Khubov, Vano Muradeli, Vladimir Yurovsky and Lev Kulakovsky), Khrennikov signed the statement welcoming “a sentence of the Supreme Court of the Soviet Union, passed on traitors against the motherland, fascist hirelings, such as Tukhachevsky, Yakir and others”.
Having “adopted the optimistic, dramatic and unabashedly lyrical style favored by Soviet leaders”, Khrennikov shot to fame in 1941, with the “Song of Moscow” from his music score for the popular Soviet film They Met in Moscow, for which he was awarded the Stalin Prize. In 1941, Khrennikov was appointed Music Director of the Central Theatre of the Red Army, a position he would keep for 25 years.
In February 1945 Khrennikov was officially posted by the Political Authority (Politupravlenie) of the Red Army from Sverdlovsk, where he and his family had been evacuated, to the First Belorussian Front, and the Army commanded by General (later Marshal) Chuikov.

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