ComposerIn 1846, 19 year old Aloisius Ludwig Minkus arrived in Paris from Vienna where he was born March 23, 1826. It is believed he was of Polish or Czech origin. He had with him his violin and some of his compositions. Due to his personal charm and strong recommendations he soon received an offer to compose a complete ballet score. Because of his youth the offer was reduced to one act; the rest of the ballet, Paquita, was entrusted to an experienced ballet composer, Edouard Deldevez.
By 1853 Minkus was in Russia where he became an orchestral conductor/violin soloist of the private serf orchestra of Prince Nikolai Yusupov. He also taught the violin. It was in Russia that Minkus took the first names of Leon Fedorovich. 1861 saw the beginning of an association with the Bolshoi Theater, first as violin soloist and a year later as conductor with the title of "Inspector of the Orchestras."
In 1863 he composed the music for Saint-Leon’s Fiamenta, of which a shortened version was given in Paris as Nemea in 1864. Minkus maintained his ties with Paris where in 1866, 20 years after his debut there, he himself was the older, more experienced musician who wrote the larger part of a ballet, La Source; one act only was entrusted to the younger Delibes.
On returning to Russia Minkus began writing ballet music for Petipa’s creations. In 1868 Petipa planned his Don Quixote for the Bolshoi Theater, with music composed by Minkus. It had an enormous success when first performed in 1869. This won for Minkus the post of Official Composer to the Imperial Russian Ballet, a position held previously by Italian Ceasare Pugni who composed music for more than 300 ballets. Minkus held the position until it was discontinued in 1886. These were fertile years for Minkus, and his many compositions included La Bayadere in 1877.
Minkus was also responsible for composing additional music for ballet standards such as Giselle. At the request of Petipa he composed additional variations for Giselle in both acts one and two.
Dissatisfied with his pension from the Russian government, Minkus retired to his native Vienna where he resided until his death.
Minkus was unfortunate from a musical point of view to be a contemporary of Tchaikovsky. It must be noted, however, the he was a specialist ballet composer and should not be compared to the likes of Tchaikovsky or Stravinsky who come from a different genre. His ballet music may be summarized as full of melody and rythmic verve, much of which is charming and of immediate appeal. Although his orchestrations were not elaborate, and as John Lanchbery observed, "..it can occasionally lapse into trite note-spinning," Minkus had the ability to give an emotional feel or mood to a piece without dominating it, allowing the dancers to be seen to full advantage. He possessed the gift of making even the clumsiest listener want to get up and dance. A waltz time aficionado, he had gypsies, rajahs, Spanish bullfighters, Indian temple maidens, alive and dead, all dance to a waltz rhythm.
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