Russia cannot be understood with the mind alone…

Умом Россию не понять,

Аршином общим не измерить:

У ней осбенная стать —

В Россию можно только верить



Russia cannot be understood with the mind alone

No ordinary yardstick can span her greatness

She stands alone, unique

In Russia, one can only believe.


A few words on Catoire (Георгий Львович Катуар):

A stilted “treatise” on opinion:

Catoire’s music shows us an original musical spirit affected by two important creative characteristics: a control of pianistic technique where everything is possible. developed from Liszt and Alkan, and an individual liberty of curiosity, the expression of an autodidact not afraid to explore the recesses of his imagination.

– He was severely handicapped by personal shyness and bouts of depression. Lack of support from his–business-oriented–relatives, friends, and colleagues for his choice of career in composition did not help matters.

Considered conservative by the new soviet regime, his works don’t offer any socio-political utility. His publications disappear from circulation with the collapse of the publishing houses due to the Russian revolution.


These pieces are rarely studied or performed in the West.  A few reasons for such neglect are unavailability of his music scores and the more conservative characteristics of his style, i.e. adherence to the tonal system, and the more gentle sentimental nature of his solo piano works. Thus, his compositions fell out of fashion before they gained wider recognition. Unavailability of his music scores contributed to his obscurity for the Western audiences.

Catoire’s style characteristics firmly reflect style practices of the German late Romantics. His use of harmonic and tonal color and occasional use of Russian folk-song reflect the Russian style characteristics of Rimsky-Korsakov, Arensky, Scriabin, and the Russian nationalist composers. Many of his early works – the waltzes, preludes, and other character pieces – have a naïve sentimentality of parlor- music style.


Catoire’s music is notable for its delicacy and harmonic refinement but, when faced with Bach’s mighty Passacaglia, he too adopts the epic style. In Eugen d’Albert’s better known transcription the music grows from a contained and dignified opening, but Catoire unleashes the mighty roar of the romantic instrument from the start (fortissimo pesante) and he is concerned throughout with the picturesque characterization of each individual variation through changes of texture and register. His determination, at the same time, that not one note of Bach’s should be lost in the process puts merciless demands on the performer.


from notes by Hamish Milne © 2005

A petit bio:

Georgy Catoire (1861-1926) was an important figure in Russian musical life at the turn of the 20th century and is generally considered the father of Russian modernism. He was born in Moscow to a French noble family which had emigrated to Russia in the early 19th century. Although fascinated by music, he studied mathematics and science at the University of Moscow, graduating in 1884. After graduation, however, he decided to devote himself to music. His early compositions showed the influence of Tchaikovsky who described Catoire as talented but in need of serious training. Eventually Catoire was to study composition with Rimsky-Korsakov, Lyadov, Arensky and Taneyev. In 1916, he was appointed Professor of Composition at the Moscow Conservatory, a position he held for the rest of his life. Catoire wrote several treatises on music theory, which became the foundation for the teaching of music theory in Russia.

If you should find yourself further interested in this fascinating man…please read:






Author: mmartel

"If he's honest, he'll steal; if he's human, he'll murder; if he's faithful, he'll deceive. Being at a loss to resolve these questions, I am resolved to leave them without any resolution." I have so much to say to you that I am afraid I shall tell you nothing."

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