Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary Composer Biographies

César Cui

Born: January 18, 1835 in Vilnius, Lithuania
Died: March 24, 1918 in obscurity
Nationality: Russian
Era: Romantic
Main genre: Songs, Piano music, and Operas
Main works:
Fair at Sorochinsk
Mademoiselle Fifi
William Ratcliff
Little Red Riding-Hood
Brief biography:

Cui's father, Antoine, came to Russia with the invading army of Napoleon, and settled in Lithuania where he met Julia Gucewicz. Cesar had three brothers and one sister. He was not a child prodigy, but his father made him take violin lessons, where he learned theory but not composition. Around the age of 15 Cesar went to military engineering school in Petersburg. In Petersburg he met the rest of the members of the "Mighty Five" or kutchka (the group of Russian Nationalist Composers), and began composing music. Cui also became one of the main spokesmen for the "new Russian School," by publishing reviews and views regularly. Many of his articles criticized "modernist" composers like Claude Debussy, and Richard Strauss. Cui was not the greatest composer, and is in fact the least known of the "Mighty Five." He wrote 14 operas, several hundred songs, some short orchestral and string quartet works, and piano music. Later in his life he wrote many works for children, including operas like Puss-in-Boots. Cui became blind before his death (like J.S. Bach), and passed away in 1918. He is still little remembered, even though his writings influenced Russian Music greatly.

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