Listen to the Russian classical music!

Visiting Moscow it is worth to devote one of your nights here to a visit to one the Moscow theatres.

It was in the 19th century, when a group of composers called The Five banded together and made their goal the promotion of purely Russian music. Their compositions were inspired by Russian history and folk stories, traditional tunes and harmonies. It was a perfect example of nationalist music, which had a huge rise all over Europe towards the end of the 1800s.

This period was called the Golden age for Russian classical music. Later on there were also a Silver and a Soviet periods.

The guides of Tour of Moscow can always recommend you what performance to visit and help to arrange your visit! We can acquire concert tickets for you in advance or you can do it on yourself after reading this guide to the Moscow theatres.


Here are some of the big names:

Mikhail Glinka (1804–1857)

Glinka is often regarded as the "father of Russian music" who established a unique national classical style. His works had an important influence on the future composers.

There was almost no national Russian music during Glinka's lifetime and most of music was imported from Western countries, such as Germany, Italy and France. His first goal was to write a first Russian opera. He succeeded and composed “A Life for the Tsar” , which was glorifying a heroic deed of one Russian peasant, in 1842. It had a tremendous success. Several parts of the opera were based on Russian folk music.


Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

One of the most skilled and inventive Russian orchestrators, Rimsky-Korsakov had an ability to create astonishingly rich orchestral sound worlds.

He started out not as a musician, but as a naval officer. During his 3-year long round-the-world cruise as a cadet, he wrote his first symphony. Upon his return he got a musical education and became a Professor of Composition at the St. Petersburg conservatoire. He taught many famous future composers, for example Igor Stravinsky.  

He is world-famous for such pieces as the Flight of the Bumblebee (from the opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan), Capriccio Espagnol, and Sheherezade. He wrote 13 operas, three symphonies, and several other orchestral and chamber pieces.


Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)

Mussorgsky's story is one of the most tragic stories of all the Russian composers.

His music was slightly different from the contemporary standards. Its beauty had been discovered already after composer’s death when his close friend Rimsky-Korsakov “polished” the music of Mussorgsky to correspond to the contemporary standards and published an arrangement of his works.

Mussorgsky composed two operas on Muscovite history, which are extremely well known today: Boris Godunov (based on Pushkin's play of the same title) and Khovanshchina. Another piece, which was made famous in the US by its appearance in Disney's Fantasia, is the orchestral work “Night on Bare Mountain”. It is wild, chilly and experimental.  His most frequently performed work is Pictures at an Exhibition, a cycle of piano pieces describing pictures in sound.


Peter Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)

Peter Tchaikovsky is nowadays one of the most popular and famous composers. His colorful music has enchanted listeners all over the world.

Tchaikovsky's music is very characteristic! The most obvious elements are a high standard of orchestration and excellent memorable melodies, which touch listeners' hearts.

Peter Tchaikovsky actively used Russian melodies and sounds, but presented them in a sophisticated way that audience from Western Europe could appreciate it too. Before Peter, Russian composers had a reputation of writing music that was a bit inelegant, but Tchaikovsky changed that!

His most famous compositions are:

The 1812 Overture, a massive festival piece with church bells, cannons and a whole load of Russian spirit!

The Nutcracker ballet, Tchaikovsky's magical Christmas fairy-tale.

Swan Lake ballet, a hugely popular legendary story.

Sleeping Beauty ballet, the composer's favorite of his three ballets.

Tchaikovsky's Piano Concertos are full of a profoundly personal feeling. The most famous is No.1 in B flat minor, Op. 23 (1875).

Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, one of the best examples of the genre and great excitement to listen to.

4th Symphony, which broke the mold and made listeners realize what a symphony could become.

6th Symphony, Pathetique, the composer's last masterwork, in which he almost foretells his own doom.

The passionate Romeo and Juliet Overture...


Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1843)

Inspired by Tchaikovsky, his music goes even further and has a richly deep and complex quality, as well as some exceptionally beautiful melodies. His music is full of exquisite harmony and creates a wonderfully rich depth of subtle feelings.

His output includes piano concertos, huge amounts of solo piano music, dozens upon dozens of beautiful songs, the hugely popular Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and the deeply spiritual Vespers (profoundly beautiful choral chants).

He was also a very well- known and highly respected pianist. His technical perfection and rhythmic drive were legendary. His famously large hands could span an octave-and-a-half on the keys.


Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

The opening ceremony of Winter Olympic Games in Sochi started to the music of Igor Stravinsky. We heard a piece from The Rite of Spring (1913), a ballet depicting old pagan Rus (Old Russia). This amazingly thrilling ballet marked a new period in the world music. In order to render an elemental brutality and primitive savagery of ancient times the composer used an unusual daring assonance, chaotic rhythms, rebellious arrangements… Two other iconic ballets of Stravinsky, the Firebird and Petrushka, are based on Russian folklore. All these ballets were composed for the Russian Ballet Seasons in Paris Opera House.

Works of Stravinsky have a deep national background. They are characterized by a perfection of realistic expression and complete originality of exposition.


Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975)

Shostakovich was a legendary Soviet-era composer whose works continue to feature among the most frequently performed in the world.

Born in St. Petersburg in 1906, 11 years before the soviet revolution, Shostakovich spent much of his teenage and adult life in conflict with the Communist system.  He was repeatedly accused of “formalism” (this is what a common man cannot understand) and forced to abandon his openly sarcastic style. For example one of articles about Shostakovich’s music was called “Muddle Instead of Music”.

However Shostakovich managed to maintain his original voice! He buried both irony and protests in his music.  Shostakovich’s compositions are characterised by the use of dissonance, subtle sarcasm, romantic emotion, and musical quotations - from his own works and that of other composers - in order to communicate ideas.

The most famous episode of his life is a creation of his 7th symphony under siege in Leningrad in 1941. The siege lasted for 900 days. In August 1942 the symphony was performed in Leningrad by 80 musicians who almost starved to death during blockade. This live performance was broadcasted in the USSR, Great Britain and the USA as testimony of heroic resistance of Leningrad residents to Nazis.

Sergey Prokofiev (1891-1953)


Sergey Prokofiev was one of few composers who after the Revolution of 1917 he was given a permission to travel abroad. He was actively touring in America and in Paris, until his final return to Russia in 1936. At home, though in touch again with the root of his inspiration, he found himself out of favour with the authorities and in 1948 the subject of particular and direct censure.

Prokofiev’s style is ironic, his musical language is often acerbic.

Among the best known Prokofiev’s works is the third piano concerto, which was written in the composer’s instantly recognisable musical language, from the incisive opening to the motor rhythms that follow, in a mixture of lyricism and acerbic wit.

The most famous Prokofiev’s operas are The Love for Three Oranges, written in 1919 for Chicago, The Fiery Angel and War and Peace, the last based on Tolstoy’s novel. Prokofiev wrote seven symphonies. The ‘Classical’ Symphony (No. 1), written in 1916–17 with the work of Haydn in mind, is the best known. Film scores by Prokofiev include Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky and Ivan the Terrible. Prokofiev was a talented pianist. His music for piano includes piano versions of music from the ballets Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella.

One of the most widely known of all Prokofiev’s compositions is his tale for children Peter and the Wolf, for narrator and orchestra. It is a simple pedagogical work to introduce to children the instruments of the orchestra, with instruments or groups of instruments representing characters in the story.

Alfred Schnittke (1934–1998)

This famous Russian-born postmodernist composer came from a German-Jewish family.

His characteristic compositional approach was a synthesis of musical styles of the past and the present in close proximity – “poly-stylistics,” as he called it. Some fans were enthused about the inclusion of electric and bass guitars in orchestral works.


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