Georgy Vasilyevich Sviridov was born on December 15, 1915, in the city of Fatezh, Kursk. The neoromantic composer’s mother, Elizaveta Ivanovna, was a teacher. His father, Vasily Georgyevich, was a peasant, who after receiving an education, became a postal and Telegraph employee. In 1917, Vasily Georgyevich joined the party and after the establishment of Soviet power in Fatezh, he was in charge of the district labor Department. In 1919, he was killed. In 1924, the Sviridovs moved to Kursk. In Kursk, Georgy Sviridov continued to study at school. Back in Fatezh, the boy studied music with a home teacher but the exercises bored the boy, and so the lessons stopped.
He learned to play the balalaika (traditional Russian musical stringed instrument) by ear. He demonstrated such talent and ability that he was accepted into the local orchestra of Russian folk instruments. In 1929, Sviridov decided to enter a music school. When he was asked to play something on the piano, he played what he called “Austrian March”, which he probably had heard in the city garden because he had no repertoire.
At the music school, Sviridov became a student of Vera Vladimirovna Ufimtseva, the wife of the famous Russian inventor, Anatoly Georgievich Ufimtsev. The young man made friends with a family Ufimtsev, and began to visit their house. This friendship meant a lot to the teenager. The range of his interests and activities expanded and became enriched.
In 1932, Georgy Sviridov went to Leningrad and entered the Leningrad First Music College. Sviridov tried to compose while still in Kursk, but hid his composing experiences for the fear of misunderstanding. G. Sviridov firmly decided to study composition and he wrote two pieces for piano. In 1935, Sviridov completed his first large vocal cycle of six romances based on the poems of Alexander Pushkin. This cycle brought the young composer his first great success and wide fame. They were published and entered the repertoire of outstanding performers as C.Ya. Lemeshev, S.I. Migay, A.S. Pirogov.
In 1936, G.V. Sviridov entered the Leningrad Conservatory, where he became a member of the Union of Soviet composers and was enrolled on the A.V. Lunacharsky scholarship. The instrumental music of the pre-war period, the most interesting are the First Piano Concerto and the Symphony for string orchestra. The composer graduated from the Conservatory in June 1941.
In the first days of the Great Patriotic War, Sviridov was enrolled as a cadet at a military school, but at the end of 1941, he was released for health reasons as he suffered from severe myopia since childhood. Sviridov went to Novosibirsk, where he stayed until the end of 1944, and then returned to Leningrad. At the very beginning of the war, Sviridov wrote his first songs for the soldiers, “The song of the brave” based on poems by A. Surkov.
During these years, the composer works a lot in the genre of theater music. His greatest work was the musical сomedy “the sea stretches wide”, which was a well-deserved success in the production. “Kursk songs” is a masterpiece of Soviet music. They became a link in the chain of treasures of Russian art, which begins with the “Kamarinskaya”. It was based on folklore songs of the Kursk region, taken from the collection of A.V. Rudneva “Folk songs of the Kursk region”, such as “Green oak”, “My Nightingale”, “Beyond the river”. Dmitri Shostakovich said of the “Kursk songs”:
…there are few notes, but a lot of music…
The simplicity of the form was combined with deep content. The composer believed in his people and sees the songs as a great wealth of spiritual life. The inseparable unity of a great talented artist with the people within lies the secret of the power of his art. In 1968, Sviridov was awarded the USSR State prize for the creation of “Kursk songs”, and in 1970 he was awarded the honorary title of people’s artist of the USSR.
No matter what Georgy Sviridov writes, he always composed about the bright, sublime things that help people live, make them feel better, and help them rise above everyday life. His work is a living embodiment of the immortality of the traditions of Russian culture. The composer died of a heart attack in Moscow, where he had lived since 1956, on 6 January 1998.
Inscription on his monument:
“Воспеть Русь, где Господь дал и велел мне жить, радоваться и мучиться”
“To sing about Russia, where the Lord told me to live, to rejoice and to suffer”
He is most widely known for his choral music, strongly influenced by the traditional chant of the Russian Orthodox Church. While Sviridov’s music remains little known in the West, his works received high praise in his homeland for their memorable lyrical melodies, national flavor and mainly for great expression of Russia and Russian soul in his music. His piece “Winter Road” was allegedly plagiarized by Tappi Iwase and used as the theme for the popular video game series Metal Gear Solid. Asteroid 4075 Sviridov, discovered by the Russian astronomer Lyudmila Georgievna Karachkina in 1982, was named in honor of Georgy Sviridov.