Kaleidoscope-24 Miniatures for Violin & Piano, Op.50
Like so much of CÚsar Cui's music, all but one of the 24 miniatures that together make up the Kaleidoscope for violin and piano are no longer known and have disappeared into oblivion. That one exception is the ubiquitous Orientale, the 9th of this wonderful set. So famous has it become that it is not only regularly used as an encore by violinists, but it has received hundreds of arrangements even including such bizarre combinations as marimba and tympani. But what of the other 23--shamefully, they have all but disappeared and are rarely if ever heard and it is highly unlikely that there has been any concert performance of the entire set for the past 100 years. This is difficult to explain in view of the fact that not only are several of the other miniatures every bit as good, if not better than the Orientale, but also because Kaleidoscope is one of the finest sets of miniatures ever composed for violin and piano. Among other things, Cui was one of the great masters of the miniature format, penning several fine sets of such works for various instruments. Our soundbites, which feature 14 of the 24 works included in the set, should give you a good idea of how lovely these morceaux, as they were called, are.
CÚsar Cui (1835-1918) was born in the then Russian (now Lithuanian) city of Vilnius also known as Vilna. He took an engineering degree in St. Petersburg and eventually became an expert on military fortifications. His expertise was such that he ended his career as a general and for many years was a professor of this subject. Nonetheless, Cui today is only known as a composer. As a boy, he studied with the then prominent Polish composer Stanislaw Moniuszko. Despite pursuing an active military and academic career, he composed throughout his life and was actually a rather prolific composer. In addition to this, he was a prominent music critic. As a critic his goal was to promote the music of contemporary Russian composers, especially the works of the composers who eventually became known as The Mighty Five. (Rimsky Korsakov, Borodin, Cui, Balakiev and Mussorgsky) Cui concentrated his efforts on opera and vocal works and did not write symphonies, although he did write a few orchestral works. He did not ignore chamber music, writing three string quartets. Outside Russia, his reputation rests almost entirely on the aforementioned Orientale.
The 24 miniatures that comprise Kaleidoscope, which was composed around 1894, were not published as a set but rather sold individually, hence insuring a greater profit for the publisher. This is the first time that these fine works have ever been offered together. We are proud to have produced the Kaleidoscope as a the set and feel that it will be of great value and a source of pleasure to violinists everywhere.