A spotlight on a piece called Kamarinskaya by Glinka

Band conductor

Dimitri conducting at Highcliffe Castle

For our Spring Strictly Come Celebrate concert in March we’ll be playing a selection of dance music. One of the pieces in our programme is Kamarinskaya by Glinka. Our conductor, Dimitri, tells us more about the piece…

There’s no denying that Kamarinskaya was an influential piece of music, especially when you consider that it has influenced over 40 years of Russian Classical composition. Tchaikovsky even attributed it as the acorn from which the oak of Russian Symphonic music grew.

Glinka’s Kamarinskaya, written in 1848, provided the bedrock upon which Balakirev and his followers sought to build the ‘Russian School’ of music. The period from 1850 to 1890 was to be the time in which Balakirev would meet Glinka, go on to form the Kuchka, and with this group, set out in an attempt to direct musical composition within Russia towards what he and his friends considered a Russian ‘style’.

But what is it about Kamarinskaya that makes it so influential and so memorable? Well, the first thing to know is that it features two Russian folk songs. This appealed to Kuchkist ideals as folk music was considered to be the true voice of Russia. The most noticeable feature of this piece however, is its repetitiveness.

In this piece, Glinka is attributed with inventing the ‘Changing Background Technique’. This means that the main melody repeats continuously, while the supporting background changes. At first you might think that this would make the piece plain boring (especially considering that the two folk melodies repeat some 40 times!) but when you consider that every time you hear the two melodies the background is different, you can begin to see the humour and charm behind the idea.

If this idea seems intriguing then have a look at Balakirev (video) and Rimsky-Korsakov’s (video) compositions entitled Overture on Three Russian Themes, both influenced by Glinka’s Kamarinskaya.

Join us on Saturday 17 March 2018 at St. Thomas’ Church, Ensbury Park, Bournemouth, at 7:30pm as we play a variety of dance music.

By Dimitri, BADCB’s Principal Conductor