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Apollon Selivyorstovitch Gussakovsky
Sheet music for Apollon Selivyorstovitch Gussakovsky
Like his friends at that time, Gussakovsky was poorly trained in music theory. He never got a proper musical education. Most of his compositions are for piano and were written in the years 1857-1861. Gussakovsky also left a number of songs. On January 15, 1861 an allegro for orchestra was publicly performed, the first movement of a never to be completed symphony. This work written by a science student (and orchestrated by Balakirev) was well received by the public and the press. The next year it was performed again under the baton of the famous Anton Rubinstein. In October 1970 Vladimir Nikolsky (the same man who had suggested Boris Godunov as an opera subject to Mussorgsky) wrote in his diary: "Balakirev played unpublished works by a certain Gussakovsky, among which were some marvellous pieces."
Gussakovsky is casually mentioned in several books about Russian composers of the Balakirev Circle. An important source of information is the article by Abram Gozenpud, "Pogibshi Talant (A lost talent)", in Sovyetskaya Muzyka (1951) no. 4, p. 76-83.
Apollon Selivyorstovitch Gussakovsky (1841-1875) was trained as a chemist. As a student he was a friend of Balakirev and Mussorgsky and a contributor to the Balakirev Circle. However, after graduating he did not compose any more and was lost to music.
In the spring of 1857 A.S. Gussakovsky, then still a high school student showed his musical compositions to Balakirev, who was very impressed. He encouraged the boy and introduced him to his friends, including Cui, Mussorgsky and the Stasov brothers. Gussakovsky was a regular participant in their musical gatherings for several years, without neglecting his scientific studies. He became particularly close to Modest Mussorgsky, who dedicated several compositions to him. Both Musorgsky and Balakirev had a high opinion of Gussakovsky’s gifts as a composer. Gussakovsky was very poor and the Stasovs helped him to enter Petersburg University to study chemistry. While still a student, Gussakovsky married the daughter of a petty civil servant. His wife showed hardly any interest in music. Although Gussakovsky suffered from consumption, he tried to improve his pecuniary situation by giving private lessons. Having graduated at the Science Faculty in 1863, Gussakovsky was sent abroad for three years to study chemistry and agricultural sciences in preparation for a job at the Department of Agriculture. This was common practice: Alexander Borodin had completed a similar trip a few years earlier after earning his doctorate in chemistry. As Balakirev later recalled, on the day of his departure Gussakovsky came to take leave and only a few hours later, as if in replacement, Rimsky-Korsakov came in to show his C minor Scherzo. Unlike his predecessor, Rimsky-Korsakov, Gussakovsky’s junior by three years, developed into a world-famous composer. After his return to Petersburg in 1867, Gussakovsky came to see his old friends again, but he never took up music again. He entered civil service and from 1869 taught at the Agricultural University. To his regret, the care for his wife and four daughters and his professional duties left him, a man in ill health, scarcely any time for practising music. With Borodin the case had been different: Borodin met Balakirev and his circle only after his return from abroad in 1862. This new acquaintance then stimulated Borodin to pursue music seriously, without neglecting his scientific career. When Gussakovsky died in February 1875 after a long illness, his former companion in music, Cui wrote an obituary, in which he expressed the hope that Gussakovsky’s compositions would be published. Rimsky-Korsakov was asked to edit Gussakovsky’s musical legacy, but for reasons unknown nothing did come of it. However, the Stasov brothers took care to collect Gussakovsky’s papers. More than fifty, many unfinished, works have been preserved in the Petersburg Public Library.