Rodion Shchedrin was born into a musical family - his father was a composer and teacher of music theory. He studied at the Moscow Choral School and Moscow Conservatory (graduating in 1955) under Yuri Shaporin and Nikolai Myaskovsky. Since 1958, he has been married to the great ballerina Maya Plisetskaya.
Rodion Shchedrin's early music is tonal, colourfully orchestrated and often includes snatches of folk music, while some later pieces use aleatoric and serial techniques. In the west the music of Shchedrin has won popularity mainly through the work of Mstislav Rostropovich who has made several successful recordings.
Among his works are the ballets The Little Hump-backed Horse (1955), Carmen Suite (1967), based on the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet (the project had been turned down by both Dmitri Shostakovich and Khachaturian), Anna Karenina (1971, on the novel by Leo Tolstoy), and Lady with a Lapdog (1985); the operas Not Only Love (1961), and Dead Souls (1976, after Nikolai Gogol's novel); piano concertos, symphonies, chamber and piano music and other works. He composed 24 Preludes and Fugues after he heard those of D. Shostakovich. Also remarkable is his Polyphonic Notebook.
Rodion Shchedrin has written five concertos for orchestra: the first, variously translated as Naughty Limericks or Mischievous Folk Ditties (neither of which completely get the gist of the Russian which refers to a chastushka (часту́шка), an irreverent, satirical kind of folk song) is by far the best known, and was the work which first established him on the international stage. The second of the Concertos for Orchestra was subtitled Zvony (The Chimes), and was premiered by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Leonard Bernstein as one of the many commissions in honor of the orchestra's 125th anniversary. The third Concerto for Orchestra is based on old music of Russian provincial circuses. Concerto 4, Khorovody (round dances), was written in 1989, and Concerto 5, Four Russian Songs, was written in 1998.
As well as a distinguished compositional career (for which he was made a member of the Berlin Academy of Arts in 1989 and received the Russian State Prize from President Boris Yeltsin in 1992), Rodion Shchedrin is himself a virtuoso pianist and organist, taking the piano part in person for the premieres of the first three of his six piano concertos. At a remarkable concert on May 5, 1974 Shchedrin performed the feat of appearing as soloist in all three of his then-completed piano concertos, one after the other. The concert, with the USSR Symphony Orchestra under Evgeny Svetlanov was recorded and released on LP, then CD. Following the collapse of the Soviet regime, Shchedrin has taken advantage of the new opportunities for international travel and musical collaboration, and now largely divides his time between Munich and Moscow.
On June 11-14, 2008 Rodion Shchedrin Days took place in Armenia with the participation of Shchedrin and Maya Plisetskaya as honorary guest.
Invited by Walter Fink, he was the 19th composer featured in the annual Komponistenporträt of the Rheingau Musik Festival in 2009. He and his wife attended the concerts which included his Russian liturgy The Sealed Angel for choir and flute, performed in Eberbach Abbey. His chamber music included Ancient Melodies of Russian Folk Songs (2007) with the cellist Raphael Wallfish and himself at the piano, and Meine Zeit, mein Raubtier with tenor Kenneth Tarver and pianist Roland Pöntinen who performed it also at the Verbier Festival. The premiere of a German version of his opera Lolita was performed as the opening night of the Internationale Maifestspiele Wiesbaden in a production of the Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden.
In his works, Rodion Shchedrin connects elements of folklore and traditional stylistic means, completely rooted in the great Russian classics such as Dmitri Kabalevsky and Dmitri Shostakovich, with modern compositional methods including collage and aleatoric techniques. From Prokofiev, who has also strongly influenced Shchedrin's manner of composing, the composer adopted the tendency towards marked rhythms and constructive, comprehensible linguistic gestures. The tensile strength and marked versatility of his music result from the play with tone colours, constantly changing lyrical and dramatic sections as well as greatly extended melodic lines. Thanks to his virtuoso handling of the instruments and contrapuntal skill, Shchedrin has arrived at a rather relaxed facture in his latest works, frequently enlivened by agitatedly dramatic blasts. Even if the composer has freed himself from received formal models, he never loses sight of balance and density in his musical texture.
Not Love Alone (Не только любовь) (1961)
Lenin Oratory (Оратория Ленина), a cantata (1972)
Dead Souls (Мёртвые души), after Nikolai Gogol (1977)
Lolita (Лолита) (1992)
The Enchanted Wanderer (Очарованный странник) (2002)
Boyarinya Morozova (Боярыня Морозова) (2006)
The Little Humpbacked Horse (1955)
Anna Karenina (1968)
The Seagull (Чайкa) (in 2 acts) after Anton Chekhov's play (1980)
Lady with a Lapdog (1985)
Symphony No. 1 (1958)
Not Love Alone, symphonic suite from the opera (1964)
Symphony No. 2, "Twenty-five Preludes for Orchestra" (1965)
Solemn Overture (1982)
Seagull Suite (1984)
Stihira, "Hymn for the Millenary of the Christianisation of Russia" (1987)
Concertos and concertante works:
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1954)
Concerto for Orchestra No. 1, Naughty Limericks (1963)|
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1966)
Concerto for Orchestra No. 2, The Chimes (1968)
Piano Concerto No. 3 (1973)
Concerto for Orchestra No. 3, Old Russian Circus Music (1988)
Concerto for Orchestra No. 4, Khorovody (1989)
Piano Concerto No. 4 (1991)
Cello Concerto, Sotto Voce (1994)
Viola Concerto, Concerto Dolce (1997)
Violin Concerto, Concerto Cantabile (1998)
Concerto for Orchestra No. 5, Four Russian Songs (1998)
Piano Concerto No. 5 (1999)
Piano Concerto No. 6 (2003)
Oboe Concerto (2010)
Double Concerto for piano and cello (2011)
The Sealed Angel (choral music after Nikolai Leskov) (1988)
Muzïkal'noye prinosheniye (A Musical Offering) for 3 flutes, 3 bassoons, 3 trombones, and organ (1983)
Drei heitere Stücke (Three funny pieces) for piano trio (1997)
Spielen wir eine Oper von Rossini (Let's Play an Opera by Rossini)
Menuhin Sonata for violin and piano (1999)
Ancient Melodies of Russian Folk Songs for cello and piano (2007)
Meine Zeit, mein Raubtier, vocal cycle after Osip Mandelstam for recitation, tenor and piano (2002)
Piano Pieces (1952-1961)
Four Pieces from the ballet "The Humpbacked Horse"
Two Polyphonic Pieces (Two Part Invention and Basso Ostinato)
Piano Sonata (1962)
24 Preludes and Fugues (1964/1970)
Polyphonic Notebook, 25 Preludes (1972)
Piano Sonata No. 2 (1997)
Diary, seven pieces (2002)
Sonatine Concertante (2005)
A la Pizzicato (2005)
In the Style of Albéniz op. 52 (1973)
Echo Sonata, op. 69 (1984)