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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Anyuta' Composer Gavrilin Dies at 59

Valery Gavrilin, a composer best known for the ballet "Anyuta," whose own life was immersed in the poetry and tragedies of Russia, died Thursday after a heart attack in his St. Petersburg home. He was 59.

Although the ballet, which is a fixture of the Bolshoi Ballet's repertoire, is his most popular work, Gavrilin made his mark in the music world with his distinctive songs and choral music.

He synthesized the simplicity of Russian folk songs with academic sophistication and brought more romanticism to his musical expression. While part of the broadly described Slavophile tradition, he stood alone in modern Russian music.

"He was not like anybody else - neither in his intonation, nor in the form, nor in the outlook," prominent composer Vladimir Rubin said. "He had an outstandingly bright melodic talent and a new voice, which happens so rarely."

Rubin described Gavrilin as one of the major artists in 20th-century music because, like Rachmaninoff, he was traditional and innovative at the same time.

"Everybody sees originality on the path of avant-garde," Rubin said Friday. "But on the path of traditional music, originality is not well noticed."

Gavrilin was little known to the Western music world, where he was overshadowed by controversial Westernized avant-garde composers such as Alfred Schnittke and Edison Denisov.

In a way, Gavrilin's life epitomized the tragedies of the Russian people in the 20th century. He was born near Vologda in northern Russia on Aug. 17, 1939. His father was killed in World War II, and his mother, who chaired the village soviet, was imprisoned for hiding part of the grain harvest during the war.

Gavrilin was raised in a Vologda orphanage, where a music teacher noticed his talent and sent him to the Leningrad Conservatory. He was awarded degrees in composition and musicology in 1964.

An unassertive intellectual and a man of ill health, Gavrilin possessed a profound knowledge of Russian literature and philosophy. He was a poor self-promoter and had a complicated relationship with the professional composers' establishment.

"Anyuta," which he adapted from his other pieces in 1982, was created for ballet star Yekaterina Maximova. It first appeared on TV, winning wide acclaim.

But among Russian music lovers, Gavrilin made his name in the 1960s when he wrote "Russkaya Tetrad," a lieder cycle based on Russian folk lyrics, which was highly praised by Dmitry Shostakovich and Georgy Sviridov. Later followed three song collections called "Nemetskaya Tetrad," based on the poetry of Heinrich Heine and a cycle of nostalgic romance songs called "Vecherok," or "Nighttime."

In 1984, he completed a major oratorio, "Perezvony," or "Chimes," which created a sensation because of the utterly modern sound he brought to folk-inspired melodies. He wrote several popular songs and music for Georgy Tovstonogov's famed performances in the Leningrad Bolshoi Drama Theater.

His last composition was for Oleg Menshikov's production of Alexander Griboyedov's "Woe From Wit."

A funeral service will be held Sunday in the Transfiguration Cathedral in St. Petersburg.