About the Orchestra
Vasily Andreyev (1861-1918)
– an outstanding patriot of Russia, reformer of the Russian folk instruments, creator and leader of the first Russian orchestra, public figure, educator, composer, conductor, balalaika and harmonica player-virtuoso.
V. Andreyev was born on the 3rd of January (on the 15th of January, New Style), 1861 in Bezhetsk, Tverskaya government to a family of the merchant belonging to the top guild, Vasily Andreyev and Sofia Mikhailovna (nee Veselago) from the nobles. From the earliest years V. Andreyev was keen on the folklore and played many instruments as a self-taught person. In the higher forms at school he attended the violin class of the St. Petersburg Conservatory professor N.V. Galkin. Having heard in summer 1883 in his estate Maryino in Tverskaya government the play of brilliant self-taught balalaika-player Antip, Andreyev was surprised by the abundancy of sound capabilities of such a primitive instrument and was inspired by the idea of its development. In the next year already V. Andreyev dared to perform as a balalaika-soloist at the benefit concert in Samara, and in 1886 with new, developed in the acoustic aspect balalaika made a debut in Petersburg in the Hall of the Noble Assembly. Remarkable talent and charm combined with aristocratic gloss have quickly turned Andreyev into an idol of the splendid salons and arbiter of fashion.
In 1887 upon his project there was chromatic balalaika and its variants: piccolo, prima, alto and bass, there was the first book “School of balalaika-play” issued, the balalaika classes were opened at Solyanoy side street in St. Petersburg, there was the “Circle of amateur balalaika-players” organized. Performance of this Circle in the Hall of the City Credit Society in St. Petersburg on the 20th of March, 1888 was the first one in the history of the Andreyev Orchestra.
In 1896 there were historically reconstructed domras, gusli and other folk instruments added to balalaikas. As a result of the unresting and self-giving activity of Andreyev in the war troops, railway schools, at the courses of village teachers, - balalaikas and domras spread in the whole Russia, and together with the instruments there were songs that returned.
Due to the triumphal guest tours of the Circle and late of the Russian Orchestra in the European countries and the USA, the Russian instruments gained popularity far away from Russia, were available to hear by all social classes. These successes, as well as the support of the Emperor family and outstanding contemporaries helped Andreyev pass over the consistent struggle with ill-willers. In 1892 in France he was elected to the Honorary Member of the French Academy of Fine Arts “for introduction of a new element to the music.” In 1900 at the Universal Exposition in Paris V. Andreyev was awarded a Legion of Honor and the Grand Golden Medal of the Exibition. In 1913 he was awarded the title of court counselor, and in 1914 − the title of “Soloist of His Imperial Majesty.”
V. Andreyev has dedicated the mission of revival of folk instruments not only all his state, but his life too. V. Andreyev died at night from the 25th to the 26th of December, 1918. His last auditory were soldiers of the Ural front. V. Andreyev is buried in the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.