The music of Tikhon Khrennikov (1913–2007) – operas, ballets and musicals – has been performed at our theatre on a regular basis for many decades. Khrennikov’s symphonies and instrumental concerti are performed at concerts of the Mariinsky Orchestra. His songs, frequently heard in films, have become an integral part of Russian musical life.
Tikhon Khrennikov was born in 1913 in the provincial town of Yelets in the Oryol Governorate. He was the youngest in a family of ten. From his early years he exhibited outstanding musical abilities, performing the guitar and mandolin and singing in his school choir.
In the winter of 1927–1928 Tikhon showed his works to Mikhail Fabianovich Gnessin. This amazing teacher foresaw and foretold the young musician’s future. At the Gnessin State Musical College, Khrennikov studied two subjects – piano under Efraim Gelman and composition under Mikhail Gnessin. After graduating from the Gnessin Musical College he was accepted as a second year student at the Moscow Conservatoire (composition class of Vissarion Shebalin).
Khrennikov’s piano teacher at the conservatoire was the great Heinrich Neuhaus. By that time, Khrennikov had composed a piano concerto that had been performed in public and broadcast on radio. Gradually the composer’s name gained international renown. Tremendous success awaited Khrennikov’s music for the film The Swineherd and the Shepherd. His pre-war and wartime songs were also popular. One after another, following the war came the operas Frol Skobeyev (The Rootless Son-in-Law), Mother, Dorothea, The Golden Calf and The Naked King, the operettas One Hundred Devils and One Girl and White Night, the ballets Love for Love and The Hussar Ballad, music for films, instrumental concerti and romances...
Fate granted Tikhon Nikolaevich Khrennikov a long and productive life. Destiny decreed that for half a century Khrennikov stood at the helm of a composers’ organisation – from 1948 as Secretary General and from 1957 as First Secretary of the Board of the Union of Composers of the USSR. During the worst years of ideological diktat he was forced to bend to the harsh dogmas of official normative aesthetics and the infringements of officials on his professional honour and the merits of musicians. The main proof of his gift as a composer, however, and the measure of him as a man remains his music.