June 15 marks 200 years since the birth of Mikalaj Zaremba (1821-1879), music theorist, teacher, and composer.
Mikalaj Zaremba was born into a wealthy noble family in the Azupina family estate of the Liucin district of the Viciebsk province (now the territory of Latvia). After receiving primary education at home, he was sent to a noble gymnasium in Dzvinsk (now Daugavpils), then to a boarding school in Lazdona (now the territory of Latvia). He studied music since childhood. He kept on practicing his hobby while studying at St. Petersburg University. He took private music lessons from the most famous teachers: Anton Gerke taught him piano and Johann Gross taught cello and theory of musical composition. The first major work of M. Zaremba during these years became a symphony, successfully performed by the student orchestra.
He graduated from the University with a PhD in Law (1844). He worked at the Ministry of Internal Affairs but resigned in 1852 to devote himself entirely to musical science. He sold his part of the estate to his brothers Ivan and Aliaksandr in order to improve his knowledge of music abroad (he studied music theory with Adolf Bernhard Marx in Berlin). He returned to St. Petersburg in 1854 and headed the choral society at the Lutheran Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. At the invitation of the Russian composer, conductor and pianist A.G. Rubinstein, he began teaching theory and composition in music classes at the Imperial Russian Music Society in 1859. After the transformation of these classes in 1862 into a music school (since 1866 – the conservatory; now the Rimsky-Korsakov St. Petersburg State Conservatory), Zaremba was appointed professor of music theory. He became Director of the institution in 1867 and held this position until 1871. With his selfless labour, he strove to raise the conservatory to the level of the best Western European musical institutions. He laid the foundation for the creation of a violin school in St. Petersburg, establishing choral and opera and stage classes, developed the "Instructions for the St. Petersburg Conservatory", which contributed to the streamlining of the educational process and became the organizational basis of its work for many years.
Mikalaj Zaremba is the author of the Oratory "St John the Baptist", a symphony, a string quartet, choral pieces, romances, piano miniatures, as well as many theoretical works in the field of musical art. Our compatriot stood at the origins of the formation of professional music education in the Russian Empire in the 19th century. Among the composer's students, there were many outstanding masters, including P.I. Tchaikovsky, G. Laroche and others.
Russian musicologist A.A. Alekseev-Boretsky studied the biography of the famous music theorist, his monograph "Mikalaj Ivanavich Zaremba" was published in St. Petersburg in 2011. Information about the hero of the day can be found in the online encyclopaedia “Belarus in Persons and Events” of the National Library of Belarus and in the electronic catalogue.
Bibliology Research Department