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Nikolai Korndorf: Biography

Nikolai Korndorf
1947 - 2001
Region: International

Nikolai Korndorf

NIKOLAI S. KORNDORF (1947-2001) was born in Moscow, Russia, January 23, 1947. He studied composition under S. Balasanyan at the State Tchaikovsky Conservatory of Music in Moscow, receiving his Doctorate in 1973. Korndorf continued his studies at the Conservatory in Moscow studying conducting under Lev Ginsburg. From 1972-1991 he taught as a professor at the Conservatory in the departments of Musicology, Theory, Composition and Conducting. In 1975 he was appointed lecturer in instrumentation at the Moscow Conservatory; by this time he was an active propagator of new music, and many contemporary works were performed under his baton.

In 1976 Korndorf won the National All-Union Conductors' Competition in Moscow, Russia. He guest-conducted throughout Russia, Belorussia, Georgia, and in Boston, U.S.A. Korndorf conducted the State Tchaikovsky Conservatory of Music Symphony Orchestra from 1984-1985 and was Editor-in-Chief and co-translator in Moscow of the second Russian publication of "The History of Orchestration" by A. Carse. He was also co-founder and deputy president of the Association of Contemporary Music of Russia. In 1991 he moved to Canada where he continued to compose.

From the early 1970's until the 1980's, Korndorf's style was based on the dodecaphony and sonoristic techniques with repeated use of homophonic hints of early orthodox hymnody. From the 1980's, he returned to tonal music, often composing without accidentals. He retained his interest in hymnody and continued to work with contemporary techniques.

Korndorf maked frequent references to early music and oral traditions in his works and sought to create innovative  structures within such contexts. An important turning point in his development was Yarilo (1980), for piano and tape, named after a sun god and the awakening of spring. If previous works such as the Second Symphony and the opera Pir vo vremya chudï (‘Feast in the Time of Plague’) were written in the confrontational manner typical of the 1970s, then Yarilo and the chamber works that followed in the 1980s are characterized by unhurried and meditative musical development. His artistic outlook was informed by pantheism and man's desire to merge with nature in an attempt to solve the crises of modern society. Musically, this is embodied by tonality replacing atonality. Although he often employed techniques of motif repetition in a manner that recalls minimalism, he did this with the intention of imparting formal dynamism rather than creating a continuous field of sound. His works of the late 1980s and early 1990s were mostly symphonic and distinguished by sincere pathos, dynamic power and monumental qualities. He was awarded the Duisburg City Prize in 1990 and the Hindemith Prize in 1991.

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