By 1856, Balakirev was performing his own pieces and others at public concert. Balakirev’s two main patrons died in 1857 and 1858 respectively leaving him without the support that comes with influential patrons. He had 12 compositions published in 1859. However, his main source of support still came from teaching piano (sometimes up to nine lessons in one day!) and from performing at private events.
He felt strongly that Russia should have its own school of music, free from other European influences. In the late 1850s and early 1860s, he gathered a small following of like-minded musicians. They eventually became known simply as The Five. 1862 found him helping to form the Free School of Music and he became the principal concert conductor there.
Balakirev is known for his tyrannical nature. He felt that formal academic schooling for music was a hindrance to composing music. His uncompromising personality did not gain him many friends and caused many issues with his co-workers and employers over the years.
After a bout of brain fever at the age of 21, he struggled with depression over the years. By the early 1870’s, Balakirev had suffered a complete breakdown. He withdrew more and more from music. Friends found him lacking in his usual energy and drive. In 1872, he took on a job as a clerk with the Warsaw railroad in order to make ends meet.
By 1876, he started to return to his music and went back to the Free School of Music in 1877. However, many of his early unpleasant traits were even stronger now. He resumed a series of musical Tuesday evenings at his house in the 1880’s. And in 1883 he became the director of the Imperial Chapel. He continued to compose throughout but worked more in isolation now as the younger generation of Russian composers found his style too old-fashioned.
He retired in 1895 and turned his focus more to composition in the final years of his life. He passed away in 1910 at the age of 73.
We will hear one of Balakirev’s piano pieces (Nocturne No. 2 in B Minor) on November 15, 2016 when Danny Driver takes to our stage! http://music-toronto.com/piano/driver.htm