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Michail Gnesin

Michail Gnesin: Song of Mariamne
for viola and piano
Michail Gnesin (1883-1957) came from the family of a rabbi. His three sisters founded a music institute in Moscow, which still exists under the name "Gnesin Russian Academy of Music". Gnesin himself taught composition there. Among his students were Aram Chatschaturjan and Tichon Chrennikow.

In 1921 Gnesin traveled to Palestine, where he remained for almost one year. He lived there like a hermit in a remote guest house between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. There where he composed his opera "Abraham's Youth" based on old Jewish legends - the first Jewish national opera. This work was a kind of credo in which he answered the question about his artistic and human identity.

In the mid 1920s Gnesin became chairman of the Society for Jewish Music in Moscow. When the political pressure increased, Gnesin fought for the society's continued existence. He knew that he put himself in mortal danger, when he defended Jewish music against the discriminations. While masses of people were vanishing in Gulags, he still had the courage to support the freedom of art. After the society was forced to discontinue its work in 1930 and Jewish music was no longer allowed to exist in Russia, Gnesin offered passive resistance - he did not compose at all for a number of years.

Autograph by Gnesin
Autograph by Gnesin

© 01.08.2016 by Jascha Nemtsov. e-mail: