Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev was born in 1837 to a poor family. He started learning the piano very early in life from his mother at home. He started school at the Nizhny Novgorod Gymnasium. When he was 10, his mother travelled with him to Moscow for a series of piano lessons during his summer vacation.
Upon the death of his mother, he was boarded, and continued his schooling, at the Alexandrovsky Institute. Here his musical talents were noted by Alexander Ulybyshev. He became Balakirev’s patron and Balakirev continued his musical studies with pianist Karl Eisrach at this point in his life. With Eisrach, Balakirev’s music background was greatly expanded. In addition to playing and reading music, he was allowed to lead the count’s personal orchestra in rehearsals and eventually in performance.
Balakirev started university in 1853 as a mathematics student. He taught piano lessons to help bring in some extra money. His school holidays were spent back in his home town or on the Ulybyshev estates playing the piano. When he finished school in 1855, he was introduced to Glinka and encouraged to make music his career.
Come back next week to read our post on the rest of Balakirev’s life in music!