Andrei Volkonsky

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Prince Andrei Mikhaylovich Volkonsky (also Andrey, André, Mikhailovich, Michailovich, Volkonski, Volkonskiy) (Russian: Андрей Михайлович Волконский; 14 February 1933 in Geneva, Switzerland – 16 September 2008 in Aix-en-Provence, France) was a Russian composer of classical music and harpsichordist. He was a key figure in Early Music Revival in Russia.


A descendant of Volkonsky, Russian aristocratic princely family in exile, he was born in Geneva in 1933. As a child he played his improvisations to Sergei Rachmaninov. Then he studied piano at Geneva Conservatory with Johnny Aubert[de] and with the legendary Dinu Lipatti. The Volkonsky family resettled in Moscow in 1947. From 1950 to 1954 he studied at the Moscow Conservatory under Yuri Shaporin, but was expelled for breaking some minor disciplinary rules. In 1956 Volkonsky began the career of a harpsichord and organ player. He pioneered performing renaissance and baroque music, which had hitherto not been played in the USSR. In 1965 he founded an ensemble of early music, called ‘Madrigal’.

He was among the first Soviet composers who began experimenting with twelve-tone and serial techniques. An early work in this style was his piano suite "Musica Stricta" (1956). His works greatly influenced his colleagues. Composing such music at that time was an act of courage: it was a protest against the suppression of freedom, and specifically against the requirement that the composers in Soviet Russia followed the narrowly prescribed doctrines of the Socialist Realism. It is not surprising that his music, attempting at a real renewal and enrichment of the musical language in Russia, was banned from performance. Volkonsky said that he had been fighting for 25 years to establish and preserve his artistic individuality in Moscow before requesting an exit visa in December 1972.

"The next day I was expelled from the Union of Composers. All my concerts were cancelled. The record company was instructed not to release the records I had made…" (Andrei Volkonsky)[1]

But he was not allowed to leave the country immediately. Five months of suspense and unemployment followed, during which he hounded the passport office and sold most of his belongings, including scores and books, to support himself.

"The Soviet authorities finally had the intelligence and wisdom to release the composer who was of no use to them in the fulfilment of their music five-year plans, who could not compose that only kind of music which was allowed in the Soviet Union… I was just a speck of dirt in the grand marble palace of the Soviet Culture." (Andrei Volkonsky)[2]

Andrei Volkonsky emigrated to the West in 1973. He first returned to Geneva, where he was born, and later settled in Aix-en-Provence (in the South of France). He was married (1954–1960) to the poet Helvi Jürisson (b. 05.10.1928). They had a son, prince Peeter Volkonski (Piotr Andreevitch Volkonsky) (b.12.09.1954), an acclaimed Estonian actor and rock-musician.


Selected works[edit]

  • Piano Sonata in B Major (1949)
  • Rus, cantata on text by Nikolai Gogol (1952)
  • The Face of Peace, cantata on text by Paul Éluard (1952)
  • Concerto for Orchestra (1953)
  • Capriccio for orchestra (1954)
  • Piano Quintet (1954)
  • String Quartet (1955)
  • Sonata for Viola and Piano, Op. 8 (1955–56)
  • Musica Stricta for piano (1956)
  • Fantasia for Piano (1955)
  • Two Japanese Songs for chorus, electric sound and percussion (1957)
  • Music for 12 Instruments (1957)
  • Serenade to an Insect for chamber orchestra (1959)
  • Mirror Suite for soprano and 5 players: Flute, Violin, Guitar, Organ and Percussion on text by Federico García Lorca (1960)
  • Lamentations of Schchaza for soprano, Cor Anglais, Violin, Marimba, Vibrafono, and Cembalo on text by Schchaza (1961)
  • Jeu à Trois for flute, violin and harpsichord (1962)
  • Concerto Itinérant for soprano, violin percussion and 26 instruments, text from the Rubayiat of Omar Khayyám (1967)
  • Replica for small orchestra (1969)
  • Les mailles du Temps for 3 instrumental groups (1970)
  • Maqam for tar and harpsichord (1974)
  • Lied for 4 voices (1974)
  • Immobile for piano and orchestra (1978)
  • 7 Sacred Songs for three male voices (solo or choir) (arrangement of Russian-orthodoxe liturgical songs) (1984)
  • Was noch lebt for mezzo soprano and string trio on text by Johannes Bobrowski (1985)
  • Psalm 148 for three voices (solo or choir), organ and timpani (1989)
  • Carrefour for ensemble (1992)

Film music

  • Novye pokhozhdeniya Kota v Sapogakh (1958)/Новые похождения кота в сапогах (as A. Volkonsky)
  • Marya-iskusnitsa (1960)/Марья-искусница/Maria, the Wonderful Weaver/The Magic Weaver (USA)
  • Priklyucheniya Krosha (1961)/Приключения Кроша/Adventures of Krosh
  • 3+2 (1962)/Three Plus Two/Tri plyus dva
  • Voyna pod kryshami (1967)/Война под крышами/The War Under the Roofs
  • Dead Season (1968)
  • Mogila Lva (1971)/Могила льва/The Lion's Grave
  • Pereprava (1987)/Переправа



Suite de los espejos/Spiegel-Suite/Mirror Suite/La Suite de miroirs Federico Garcia Lorca (1959)

1. Symbol 1:15
2. Der grofte Spiegel 0:15
3. Reflex 1:18
4. Strahlen 0:19
5. Widerhall 1:01
6. Shinto - Weg der Gotter 1:16
7. Die Augen 6:12
8. Initium 0:50
9. Schlaflied fur den schlafrigen Spiegel 5:16

Les Plaintes de Shchaza/Die Klagen der Shchaza/Laments of Shchaza (1960)

10. Lento ma non troppo 2:19
11. Presto 2:05
12. Lento rubato 6:38
13. Aussi vite que possible 5:07

Concert itinerant/Das wandernde Konzert/Wandering Concerto 30:33 (Omar Hayyam) (1964–67)


(1-9) Lydia Davydova (Sopran), Andre Volkonsky (Orgel) und Solisten des Symphony Orchestra of Leningrad Philharmonic, Leitung: Igor Blazhkov. Aufnahme: 1967 (10-13) Lydia Davydova (Sopran), Andre Volkonsky (Cembalo) und Solisten des Symphony Orchestra of Leningrad Philharmonic, Leitung: Igor Blazhkov. Aufnahme: 1965 (14) Tatiana Marushchak (Sopran), Grigory Sandomirsky (Violine), Natalia Pshenichnikova (Flote), Mark Pekarsky Percussion Ensemble, Collegium Musicum Chamber Orchestra, Leitung: Timur Mynbaev Live-Aufnahme beim, Alternativa?" Festival Moskau im Oktober 1989

Bella, CD, ADD, 1965-1989


  1. ^ Cit.: Boris Schwarz. Music and Musical Life in Soviet Russia. Indiana University Press, 1983.
  2. ^ Cit.: The New York Times, June the 5th, 1973.


  • Yuri Kholopov: Andrei Volkonsky the initiator: a profile of his life and work, in «Ex oriente...II» Nine Composers from the former USSR: Andrei Volkonsky, Sergei Slonimsky, Alemdar Karamanov, Valentin Silvestrov, Nikolai Karetnikov, Roman Ledenyov, Faraj Karaev, Victor Ekimovsky, Vladimir Tarnopolsky, Edited by Valeria Tsenova, English Edition only, (studia slavica musicologica, Bd. 30), 245 pp., music illus., ISBN 3-928864-91-2 (Format 21 x 14,8 cm)
  • Дружинин, Фёдор. Андрей Волконский// Воспоминания. Страницы жизни и творчества. Греко-латинский кабинет Ю.А.Шичалина, Консерватория им. Чайковского, Москва 2001
  • Schmelz, J. Peter. Andrey Volkonsky and the Beginnings of Unofficial Music; Volkonsky's Rejoinder// Such Freedom, if only musical. Unofficial Soviet Music during the Thaw. Oxford University Press, New York, 2009, pp. 67–130; pp. 275–294

External links[edit]