Some Comments on Cui by Other Critics

"His music [...] betrays most of the time the weakness of both his technique and his imagination. The lack of vernacular elements in his musical idiom is, of course, of no importance whatsoever. It has nothing to do with his almost total lack of originality. [...] The legend of his leadership does not resist investigation. [...] Cui has fallen into his right place -- that of a minor poet, [...] but still distinguished in his own way. [...] In recent years [i.e. -1944] nobody, whether in Russia or elsewhere, has attempted a reassessment of his music."
(M.D. Calvocoressi, _Masters of Russian Music_, New York, 1944, p153-154)

"'Rubinstein is not a Russian composer,' declared Cesar Cui. 'He is only a Russian who composes.' And the distinction has been generally accepted, although Cui was the last person who ought to have made it."
(Gerald Abraham, _Slavonic and Romantic Music_, New York, 1968, p99)

"My favorite Russian composer is Borodin, mainly because he had the shortest name. Except for Cui, who was just showing off. [...] Cui wrote an opera called _A Feast in Time of Plague_. Shows you what kind of guy HE was."
(Victor Borge, _My Favorite Intermissions_, New York, 1971, p133)

"Cui was no better critic than he was composer. The majority of his judgments, on friend and foe alike, are very wide of the mark."
(Gerald Abraham, _On Russian Music, 1939; rpt. New York, 1970, p5)

"You-Know-Who [...]"
(Victor Borge, _My Favorite Intermissions_, New York, 1971, p136)

"Rheinhold mailed us the sheet music of Cui's _A Feast in Time of Plague_. [...] I showed [...] jealousy toward Cui. I played his opera music belligerently. It was ugly; mine was better. And what an itsy-bitsy-overture: mine was long, and the real thing. [...] 'This passage of his is rather ugly,' I told my mother.
"'Shall I play my version? Do you like it?'
"'Yes, of course,' she said, out of politeness. 'But just don't play his opera too badly.'
"'It's not that I play it badly. It's a bad opera.'"
(Sergei Prokofiev, _Prokofiev by Prokofiev_, tr. Guy Daniels, ed. David Appel, New York, 1979, p72-73)

"Pallid talent [...] short-winded and anaemic lyrical style [...]"
Gerald Abraham, _On Russian Music_, New York, 1939; rpt. 1970, p94

"An experienced craftsman [...]"
(Sergei Prokofiev, _Prokofiev by Prokovfiev_, tr. Guy Daniels, ed. David Appel, New York, 1979, p72-73)

"These duets [from _Angelo_] reveal a composer of surprising individuality and polish."
(Richard Taruskin, _Opera and Drama in Russia as Preached and Practiced in the 1860's_, Ann Arbor, 1981, p519)

Compiler: Lyle Neff,
Last Updated: June 1995