Mikhail Gnesin - biography
Mikhail Fabianovich Gnesin (Russian: Михаил Фабианович Гнесин; sometimes transcribed Gnessin; 2 February 1883 – 5 May 1957) was a Russian Jewish composer and teacher.
Gnesin was born in Rostov-on-Don and came from a musical family. His sisters founded the Gnessin State Musical College (now the Gnesin Russian Academy of Music), in Moscow in 1895. He studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory under Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexander Glazunov and Anatoly Lyadov and in 1908 was one of the founders, with Lazare Saminsky and others, of the Society for Jewish Folk Music.
Among Gnesin's early works was a 'symphonic fragment' (his Op. 4), based on Shelley's poem Prometheus Unbound. But much of his work at this time and in the future was associated with Jewish traditional musical styles. from 1913 to 1923 Gnesin returned to Rostov to teach. From 1925 onwards he taught in both Moscow and St. Petersburg, until himself becoming head of the Gnesin Academy in 1945, a post he held until his death. He died in Moscow on 5 May 1957.
His teaching career, and the discriminatory politics of his era, meant that his compositions were less prolific after 1935. Before this, he had written two operas on Jewish topics, The Youth of Abraham and The Maccabeans. He also wrote a wide variety of songs, chamber music and orchestral works, some (such as his Symphonic Monument: 1905-1917, based on words by Sergei Yesenin) meeting Soviet political requirements, many rooted in Jewish idioms.