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When Alexander Grechaninov's opera Sister Beatrice on a text by Maurice Maeterlinck premiered in Moscow in 1912, it promised to bring together two conceptual worlds, those of symbolist aesthetics and the Russian Orthodox liturgy. Critics who hoped that Grechaninov's experience as a composer of sacred music would help bring alive the ‘unheard music’ of Maeterlinck's symbolist ‘Miracle Play’, however, were sorely disappointed. The opera drew scorn from critics for its overly concrete musical rhetoric, while conservative commentators levelled claims of blasphemy. In this article, I consider the two scenes depicting miracles in Sister Beatrice to demonstrate how it negotiated these competing perspectives, employing insights from religious philosophy as well as symbolist aesthetics. Drawing on new archival evidence, I also demonstrate how church and state censors co-participated with composers and critics debating whether and how the sacred might be displayed on stage and in sound.
This article demonstrates how migration formed a process of memory construction in the work and thought of Russian émigré composer Arthur Lourié (1891–1966). It analyses Lourié’s song cycle Recollection of Petersburg, composed over two decades and across four countries, providing close readings of music and poetry and exploring the network of intertextual connections the cycle activates. Lourié has proven a difficult subject because of the diversity of aesthetic positions he took from decade to decade. Recollection allows us to trace a line of continuity as he passed through these incarnations, revealing an aesthetics of accumulation and arrangement with origins in Acmeist poetics. This aesthetics, in turn, served as a coping strategy for Lourié’s life in emigration, as he sought to order the voices of memory and escape the flow of time. Lourié’s case will contribute to our understanding of the profound impact of migration on music in the twentieth century.
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