The creation of the new man


Kabalevski, 24 Preludi per pianoforte OP 38 – pianoforte Maria Gabriella Bassi
Digressione Music

Kabalevski Prelude op. 38 n.1

Kabalevski Prelude op. 38 n.5

Kabalevski Prelude op. 38 n.8

Dmitry Borisovich Kabalevsky
Kabalevsky was born in Saint Petersburg in 1904 and soon moved with his family to Moscow where he studied piano at the Scriabin Musical Institute.
During his adolescence he already began teaching piano lessons, composing simple pieces for his students and for silent films.
In 1925 he entered the Moscow Conservatory as a student of Ab Gol’denvejzera for piano and of N. Y. Mjaskovskij for composition. He graduated in 1930.
In 1939 he became professor of composition at the same Conservatory.
In 1940 he joined the Communist Party and became an important figure on the Soviet musical scene. He was editor-in-chief of the official magazine of the Composers of the Soviet Union “Muzyka Sovetskaya” and head of the music department committee of Radio Sovietica. He was in the commission for aesthetics-music education for children and youth, a member of the Soviet Committee for Peace and member of the USSR Ministry of Culture.
He won the Stalin Prize three times: in 1946 with his String Quartet No. 2, in 1949 with the Violin Concerto and in 1951 with The Taras Family.
He was a very popular writer and composer in Russia.
He died in Moscow in February, 1987.
Kabalevsky was a controversial figure in Russian culture. He had been considered among the top five greatest composers but was later included in the list of those accused of “formalism.” In his works, Kabalevsky extolled the objectives and aspirations of the Soviet Union, commemorating the most important events of the life and history of its people. His First Symphony was dedicated to the revolution on its 15th anniversary with a depiction of the Russian people under the czarist regime and then a celebration of the people’s rebellion and victory. His Third Symphony (Requiem), was composed for the 10th anniversary of Lenin’s death, in memory of the Soviet heroes who died during the First World War. The work The Taras Family exalts the partisans’ fight against the invading Nazis during the Second World War.
His style harkens back to the tradition of Russian musicians such as Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky and Borodin, yet he distinguishes himself for his charming melodic vein, rhythmic energy and attention to the folkloric element.
Kabalevsky composed operas, ballets, choral operas, musical scores for theatrical and radio productions, film soundtracks, four symphonies, concertos, songs and piano pieces for young students.
Kabalevsky played an important role in music education, developing teaching methods which aimed not only at improving students’ technical abilities, but also at developing their emotional involvement.

THE “MAESTRO” in the Russian pedagogical vision
From its origins, Russian culture has paid particular attention to the issue of learning and, therefore, to the figure of the “maestro,” or “teacher,” (učitel’). The concept, at least in its initial medieval phase, had a markedly religious character.
This can be observed in both Russian spirituality and literature. As early as the 12th century, works like Poučenie (Teaching) by Prince Vladimir Monomach and Voprošanija (Questions) by Kirik for his archbishop, demonstrate the inclination of the young Russian population to learning and the search for someone able to provide answers.
The Byzantine origin of Russian spirituality led to the emergence of an important figure, that of the starec (elder). The main task of this person was to help a disciple discover his true vocation and to help him dominate his will and be obedient even in situations that seemed quite strange. For example, between the 15th and 16th centuries, the famous S. Nilo Sorskij owed much to his starec or spiritual father Paisij Jaroslavov.
It is very interesting that even his antagonist, St. Joseph of Volokolamsk, in his own way touched upon the question of the training of both youth and uneducated adults. His main work, Prosvetitel’ (The Illuminator), discussed the Christian doctrine, but was characterised by its didactic perspective. Indeed, his endeavour was to translate a theology that was not always simple to comprehend into common and easily understandable concepts.
After Peter the Great’s reforms in the early 18th century, western Illuminism (Prosveščenie) arrived in Russia and grammars and basic school books started to become available. But it was in the 19th century that the concept of cultural and personal education made a great leap forward. Some of the most commonly used channels were fables and legendary tales. Many scholars left the city to travel through the countryside and listen to the elderly (some as old as 100) who orally recounted the old tales and epic songs. In this way, learning “morals” was pleasant. A true “master” of this technique was the famous novelist and count, Leo Tolstoy. At his estate at Jasnaja Poljana he created a series of schools where, through stories and progressive processes, students were educated in human values (which was Tolstoy’s main goal) as well as the traditional scholastic subjects.
While Tolstoy supported a natural and humanitarian religion and Fëdor Dostoevskij (in The Brothers Karamazov) reasserted the figure of the starec or spiritual father, the revolutionary pedagogy was also making headway.
In this school of thought, the teacher had to lead the youth to the creation of a personality that was in harmony in all aspects. And given that work has the strongest influence on the formation of the personality, as a result, work had to become the driving element of education. In this socialist concept, it is necessary that everyone have a job and that they do it joyously, satisfied in the knowledge that they are useful to themselves and the community.
A fundamental condition was that this “education” of the personality should take place without any obligation or psychological violence, as the making of the new man should happen naturally. As can be seen, the ideal and the aim were extremely positive. The means and the circumstances were rather less so. For example, an essential fact was the exclusion not only of the church, but also of God. Later developments showed the inconsistency of this assumption. But even the highly touted condition of not using obligation turned out to be as impossible as it was ineffectual.
The work of the musician Dmitrij Kabalevskij (1904-1987) is part of this enthusiastic atmosphere of the creation of the new man, and, undoubtedly, his music was a marvellous emotional support to this ideological education. It offered an extraordinary tool for reconciling certain ideals that were not always clear in the minds of the young with the joie de vivre of songs and sounds.

P. Gerardo Cioffari has been a Dominican priest since 1970. He has a degree in Orthodox Theology from St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary of New York (1973), and in Eastern Ecclesiastical Sciences from the Pontificio Istituto Orientale di Roma (1977). Director of the Centro Studi Nicolaiani, he is also manager of the Archive and the Library of the Basilica di S. Nicola. Professor of History of Eastern and Western Theology, as well as History of Russian Theology at the Istituto Ecumenico di Bari, he is the author of various studies of Russian thought. At the end of the 1970s he began historical research on various Puglian cities, later (1990) launching the magazine Nicolaus Studi Storici. Of note among his numerous publications are Storia della Basilica di S. Nicola. L’epoca normanno-sveva (History of the Basilica of St. Nicholas. The Norman-Swabian Era), Bari 1984; S. Nicola nella critica storica (St. Nicholas in Historical Criticism), Bari 1987; Breve storia della Teologia russa (A Short History of Russian Theology), Bari 1987; Viaggiatori russi in Puglia (Russian Travellers in Puglia), Fasano 1991; Storia dei Domenicani nell’Italia Meridionale (History of the Dominicans in Southern Italy) (3 volumes, with M. Miele), Naples-Bari 1993; Storia di Bari. Figure e vicende dell’epoca medioevale (History of Bari. Medieval Characters and Events), Bari 1998; Domenicani nella Storia (Dominicans in History), I-II (Bari 2005/2011).

Piano: Maria Gabriella Bassi (English)



Maria Gabriella Bassi