Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka (1804-1857), the first Russian composer to be known outside his country, is noted more for his legacy than for any of his many compositions. He received piecemeal musical training, ranging from private tuition at home to piano lessons from John Field in St. Petersburg, and further training during visits to Italy and Berlin. As a young boy he had been denied music, but obviously had a natural ear and ability, for he was to pick up the sounds of peasant choruses and folksongs heard in his teens and integrate them into a unique style of composition that blended traditional folk music with Italianate singing styles and the flair of French opera to create a distinctly Russian romantic style that would be taken up by the better known Russian composers of later generations, lasting into the 20th century with Rachmaninov and, to a lesser extent, Prokofiev.
He wrote two operas, “A Life for the Tsar” and “Russlan and Ludmila”; the first, an heroic tragedy and a roaring success; the second, a fantasy not as successful but more original and with a greater affect on subsequent Russian compositions. Whilst he wrote other works – chamber works, orchestral and many piano pieces - some of which are quite popular today, and many that deserve to be better known - it is on these two works that his fame rests and his title of “Father of Russian music”. The overture to “Russlan and Ludmila” is a frequent encore “show-off” piece ending orchestral concerts.