Leonid Desyatnikov was born in 1955 in Kharkov, Ukraine. He is a graduate of the Leningrad Conservatory, where he studied composition and instrumentation. Desyatnikov has penned four operas, several cantatas and numerous vocal and instrumental compositions. His principal compositions include: Rosenthal’s Children (an opera in two acts; libretto, Vladimir Sorokin), commissioned by the Bolshoi Theatre; Poor Liza (a chamber opera in one act; libretto, Leonid Desyatnikov, after the novel by Nikolai Karamzin); Gift (a cantata based on the verses of Gavrila Derzhavin); The Leaden Echo (a work for voice(s) and instruments based on the poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins); and The Rite of Winter 1949 (a symphony for chorus, soloists and orchestra).
Desyatnikov has been collaborating with Gidon Kremer since 1996 as a composer (Wie der Alte Leiermann…; the chamber version of Sketches to Sunset; Russian Seasons) as well as arranging the works of Astor Piazzolla, among which is the tango-operita Maria de Buenos-Aires and Quatro Estaciones Porteñas.
Desyatnikov wrote the scores for the films Sunset (1990), Lost in Siberia (1991), Hammer and Sickle (1994), Moscow Nights (Katya Izmailova) (1994), Giselle’s Mania (1995), Prisoner of the Mountains (1996), All That Is Tender (1996), Moscow (2000), His Wife’s Diary (2000) and The Target (2010).
He was awarded a Golden Ram prize and the Grand Prix of the IV International Cinema Music festival in Bonn for his score for Moscow and the special prize of the Window to Europe Cinema Festival in Vyborg.
In 2006 the opera Rosenthal’s Children received the special jury prize of The Golden Mask National Theatre Award. In 2003 he was awarded the State Prize of Russia.
He is the author of four operas, the symphony The Rite of Winter 1949, vocal cycles to the poems of Rilke and the OBERIU poets, and several instrumental transcriptions on the themes of Ástor Piazzolla.
The style of his music is defined by the composer himself as “an emancipation of consonance”, transformation of banality and ‘minimalism’ with a human face”. His favourite genre is “a tragically naughty bagatelle”.
Poor Liza (Бедная Лиза) one-act chamber opera, libretto by Leonid Desyatnikov after Nikolai Karamzin (1976; 1980)
Nobody Wants to Sing or Bravo-bravissimo, Pioneer Anisimov (Никто не хочет петь, или Браво-брависсимо, пионер Анисимов a comic opera for children in two acts, libretto by B. Chaban (1982)
Vitamin of the Growth (Витамин роста) one-act classical opera for children, for the soloists and piano after the poem by Oleg Grigoriev (1985)
Rosenthal’s Children (Дети Розенталя) opera in two acts, libretto by Vladimir Sorokin. Commissioned by the Bolshoi theatre, premiere March 23, 2005
Variations on the Obtaining of a Dwelling for violoncello and piano.
Wie Der Alte Leiermann for violin and piano
Du côté de chez Swan for two pianos
Sketches to Sunset, quintet for flute, clarinet, violin, double bass and piano
Return for oboe, clarinet, two violins, viola, cello and tape
Gift (Dar), after Gavrila Derzhavin
Liebe und Leben des Dichters, a vocal cycle to the poems by Daniil Kharms and Nikolay Oleynikov
The Leaden Echo, for voice(s) and instruments after Gerard Manley Hopkins,
Russian Seasons for voice, solo violin and strings
Music fo symphony orchestra
The Rite of Winter 1949, a symphony for chorus, soloists and orchestra.
Scetches to Sunset for orchestra
Lost in Siberia (“Затерянный в Сибири”, 1991, Mitta)
Katia Izmailova (Moscow nights) (“Подмосковные вечера”,Todorovsky, 1994)
Hammer and Sickle (“Серп и молот”, Livnev, 1994)
Giselle’s Mania (“Мания Жизели”, Uchitel, 1995)
The Prisoner of the Mountains (“Кавказский пленник”, Bodrov, 1996)
His Wife’s Diary (Uchitel, 2000)
Sunset (“Закат”, Zeldovich, 1990)
Moscow (“Москва”, Zeldovich, 2000)
Target (“Мишень”, Zeldovich, 2011)
“A farce, a popular opera, a folk play or a parable - all of these descriptions are valid for the bright, joyful production of Tsar Demyan which premiered on the stage of the Maly Drama Theatre on June 20 and 23 as part of the “White Nights” Festival. The folklore play about the apostate Tsar and his martyred son has its roots in the persecution of the first Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, and was extremely popular in factories and villages alike, even gaining popularity among the military. Essentially, the play was a true piece of folk theater - and folklore, as we know, is always anonymous. It was decided to write the music for this play in the spirit of folk primitivism.” (Giulara Sadykh-zade in St. Petersburg Times Issue No. 682 (49), Friday, June 29, 2001)
“Leonid Desyatnikov’s Rosenthal’s Children, composed to a libretto by the highly controversial fiction writer Vladimir Sorokin, has just opened at the Bolshoi Theatre. The production is arguably the season’s most provocative. Here, Mozart is a clone brought to life at Doctor Rosenthal’s laboratory. With the government subsidies for cloning and stem cell exploration, as well as for other areas of basic research, cut off during Boris Yeltsin’s presidency in the early 1990s, clones of Mozart and other great composers-such as Giuseppe Verdi, Richard Wagner, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky - find themselves loose on Moscow’s streets, exposed to the murky post-Soviet reality, memories whereof are still fresh for many Muscovites.” (Dmitry Kosyrev, RIA Novosti, political commentator, Saturday, June 10, 2006)
“The Bolshoi was nominated for Leonid Desyatnikov’s new Rosenthal’s Children, which was accused of being “pornographic” and prompted an investigation by the Russian State Duma when it opened last year…” (By Ben Mattison, March 24, 2006)
“Gold Mask 2006: Special Awards of the Musical Theatre Jury. Bolshoi Theatre – for the initiative of developing contemporary Russian opera with Rosenthal’s Children by Leonid Desyatnikov and Vladimir Sorokin.” (Official announcement)