Anatoly Lyadov (1855-1914)

Born May 11, 1855 in St. Petersburg
Died Aug 28, 1914 in Polynovka

The Enchanted Lake (Volshebnoye ozero: Волшебное озеро), Op. 62

Composed in 1909.
Instrumentation: 3 flutes, 2 oboes, 3 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, timpani, celesta, percussion, harp, and strings.

Anatoly Lyadov (Анатолий лядов) was a young man of exceptional talent and came from a distinguished musical family. His father and grandfather were both eminent conductors, and he was given the most professional training that money could buy. But it should serve as a warning to idle music students that Lyadov (himself thrown out of the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1876 by Rimsky-Korsakov for “incredible laziness”) is best remembered for failing to write music for a 1910 ballet commission from Diaghilev: The Firebird, which of course led to its composition by Stravinsky, establishing the latter, most deservedly, on the world’s stage.

Lyadov’s lack of motivation plagued him from a very early age and continued throughout his otherwise highly creative life. The Russian critic V.G. Karatygin wrote, “Everything has been given to him. He has a marvelous knowledge of technique and of the orchestra; he is a unique poet of the miniature, of the legend; he has an abundance of rare humor; he is a man of unerring taste, or great general and musical intelligence – and what does he give us? Ten printed pages a year, and sometimes less. Is this not a mortal sin against Apollo, who endowed him so lavishly? The increase in Lyadov’s creative activity during the past year or two (he is at present engaged on a very important work, a ballet…) suggests that the composer himself has been feeling the twinges of his artistic conscience.” The short tone poems completed by Lyadov that are well-known are Baba-Yaga for orchestra, Op 56 (1905), The Enchanted Lake Op. 62, and Kikimora op. 63. The last two were written in 1909 and were intended to be part of an unfinished (surprise!) opera, Zoriushka.

The Enchanted Lake opens with the strings softly playing an open fifth with the harp providing harmonic splashes of color. We hear fragments of melodies emerge among swells and rumblings. Finally, amid a Tristan-esque chromatically slithering crescendo, the strings reach a climax of sorts.

The music is quiet again following this, as the material from the opening returns and dies away.
Despite Lyadov’s tendency to never finish a work, The Enchanted Lake gives us a marvelous example of Russian impressionism. The programmatic connotations of the work are implicit in the title.