Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka (June 1 [O.S. May 20] 1804 – February 15 [O.S. February 3] 1857), was the first Russian composer to gain wide recognition within his own country, and is often regarded as the father of Russian classical music. Glinka’s compositions were an important influence on future Russian composers, notably the members of The Five, who took Glinka’s lead and produced a distinctive Russian style of music.
Mikhail Glinka was born in the village of Novospasskoye, not far from the Desna River in the Smolensk Guberniya of the Russian Empire. His father was a wealthy retired army captain, as the family had a strong tradition of loyalty and service to the Tsar, while several members of his extended family had also developed a lively interest in culture. As a small child, Mikhail was reared by his over-protective and pampering grandmother who fed him sweets, wrapped him in furs, and confined him to her room, which was always to be kept at 25 °C (77 °F); as such, he developed a sickly disposition, later in his life retaining the services of numerous physicians, and often falling victim to a number of quacks. The only music he heard in his youthful confinement was the sounds of the village church bells and the folk songs of passing peasant choirs. The church bells were tuned to a dissonant chord and so his ears became used to strident harmony. While hi nurse would sometimes sing folksongs, the peasant choirs who sang using the podgolosnaya technique (an improvised style — literally under the voice – which uses improvised dissonant harmonies below the melody) influenced the way he later felt free to emancipate himself from the smooth progressions of Western harmony. After his grandmother’s death, Glinka was moved to his maternal uncle’s estate some 10 km away, and was able to hear his uncle’s orchestra, whose repertoire included pieces by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. He was about ten when he heard them play a clarinet quintet by the Finnish composer Bernhard Henrik Crusell. It had a profound effect upon him. “Music is my soul,” he was to write many years later, recalling this experience. While his governess taught him Russian, German, French, and geography, he also received instruction on the piano and the violin.