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Life and Artistry of Maria Olenina-d'Alheim
Alexander Tumanov
Translator Christopher Barnes
Alexander Tumanov has brought "to life the picture of a rebellious talented artist of unbending principle, whose renown and service to Russian music...are rivalled only by her growing obstinacy [and] the quixotic nature of her political views." - Professor Caryl Emerson, Princeton University " A performer who sacrificed her own creative life in order that the world should hear of the composer Mussorgsky. A great artist in her own right recognized by the best musicians of her age." - Professor Efim Etkind, Sorbonne University Maria d'Olenina d'Alheim, the first performer of Russian Lieder, was a pivotal figure in early 20th century European classical music performance. Maria had the ability to "tell the song," uniting words and music in an art of vocal declamation. Her personal ties to the "Mighty Handful" of Russian composers--Mussorgsky, Borodin, Cui, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Balakirev--inspired Maria's singing. Her performances of Mussorgsky were the first to bring his music to western Europe. In 1908, Maria and her husband, music critic and writer Pierre d'Alheim, established the House of Song (Dom pesni in Russia, La Maison de Lied in France). Through her performances, his lectures, their publishing activities and by hosting international competitions, the House of Song influenced the musical climate of Europe. Through her own words and those of her contemporaries, Balakirev, Cui, Cortot, Bely, and Ravel, Alexander Tumanov has recreated this exciting period of classical music in Europe.
Format:  Trade Paperback
ISBN:  978-0-88864-328-5
Price:  CND$ 34.95, USD$ 34.95, £ 29.5
Discount:  Short
Subject:  Biography
Publication Date:  March 2000
Reviews
"Olenina-d'Alheim is presented as a forgotten, creative, rebellious artist who had a major impact on the performance world. Extensive notes and index add a scholarly touch to this intriguing book about an early-20th-century singing artist. For graduate students, researchers, and faculty with an interest in Russian song literature and its impact on the West.”
R. Miller, Oberlin College, CHOICE
"Alexander Tumanov, who in the 1960's not only talked extensively with Olenina-d'Alheim but also sent some young singers to her for what were to be her final master classes, made use of those recorded conversations as well as of every other kind of archival material, including the singer's autobiographical manuscripts and letters. Confining his own text to short introductory and transitory passages, Tumanov lets speak mostly the singer herself, friends, and critics. His book first appeared in Russian in 1995…Now that an English translation is available, there is some hope that she will again become known to a wider public…”
Christoph Flamm, The Russian Review
"Most biographies describe history, but a rare few collapse it [sic] and Alexander Tumanov's is one. The subject of this facinating study, Maria Alekseevna Olenina-d'Alheim, b 1869, [who] studied voice in St. Ptersburg ... and [became] the most gifted performer of [Mussorgsky's] songs, at the age ninety-four was interviewed by Tumanov in Moscow. Tumanov was given access to her unpublished archive. His decision to stitch together a chronicle of her life out of her memoirs, correspondence, and others’ reminscences was a wise one, and Christopher Barnes’ translation catches perfectly the naivety [sic] and passionate stubbornness of [Olenina's] text.”
Caryl Emerson, University of Toronto Quarterly winter 2001/2002, Letters in Canada, vol 71:1
"A performer who sacrificed her own creative life in order that the world should hear of the composer Mussorgsky. A great artist in her own right recognized by the best musicians of her age.”
Professor Efim Etkind, Sorbonne University
Alexander Tumanov has brought "to life the picture of a rebellious, talented artist of unbending principle, whose renown and service to Russian music in Europe in the pre-WWI era are rivaled only by her own growing obstinacy, [and] the quixotic nature of her political views . . . ”
Professor Caryl Emerson, Princeton University
"It is not every day that one encounters a book that opens up a new field of interest, but such is Alexander Tumanov's deeply informative and admirably documented biography, The Life and Artistry of Maria Olenina-d'Alheim. Its subject is the singer who, more than any other person, was responsible for making Modest Mussorgsky's music known to the Western world. The book is a masterly survey of a little-explored facet of Russian musical culture, meticulously researched and documented by the author, and Christopher Barnes has provided an excellent, idiomatic English translation.”
Gerald R. Seaman, Notes, Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association, June 2001
"As Alexander Tumanov shows in this insightful biography, Olenina-d'Alheim played a pivotal role in introducing the works of the so-called 'Mighty Handfull' at a time when they were virturally unknown outside Russia. Her interpretations of Mussorgsky in particular were electrifying and contributed to the composer being seen, like Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, as the epitome of the Russian character. Tumanov... punctuates narrative with quotations from interviews, memoirs, and correspondence with many of the leading musicians, composers, writers, and critics of her day. The book is also generously illustrated.”
Desmond Maley, CBRA

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