Théodore Akimenko’s Lyric Poem Dedicated to Rimsky-Korsakov
Notes by TŌN violist Kyle Davis
Théodore Akimenko was a Ukrainian composer, pianist, and musicologist born in 1876. Though not as well known today as his compositional contemporaries like Antonín Dvořák, Leoš Janáček, and Bohuslav Martinů, Akimenko built a sizable body of chamber and orchestral music throughout the early 20th century. Akimenko is best known today for his connections to the canonized composers Igor Stravisnky and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. At the age of ten, Akimenko was sent to Saint Petersburg in Russia to join the Royal Chapel of Saint Petersburg. His musical endeavors began to flourish at this time, as he became a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov and began learning composition. Later on in his life, from 1903 to 1914, he was a teacher of composition at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. It was here that Akimenko became one of Igor Stravinsky’s first composition teachers. Departing Russia because of the Russian Revolution, Akimenko moved to France and later to Prague, ultimately settling in France for the last 19 years of his life.
The Ukraine in which Akimenko grew up was one with heavy Russian influence in many aspects of life and culture. When he emigrated to Prague in 1924, he began to reunify with the Ukrainian culture that was absent in his youth. As a result, his later compositions include strongly Ukrainian themes, though the Russian tradition still had a great influence on him. He demonstrated this Russian influence in his orchestral work Lyric Poem, dedicated to his composition mentor Rimsky-Korsakov. The work exudes Russian Romanticism with sweeping, lyrical melodies that make their way throughout the sections of the orchestra. There is a sense of aching and unresolved conflict throughout much of the work; as the music progresses towards a grand climax, a resolution is reached and the work ends in a tranquil, tonally grounded manner.