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The Russian composer Arthur Lourié played an important role in music educational reforms in the early years following the Russian Revolution.
Lourié was partly self-taught as a musician and only received formal training between 1909 and 1913 at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, studying piano with Mariya Barinova (1868–1965) – a pupil of Ferruccio Busoni (1866–1924) – and composition with Alexander Glazunov, who served as director of the St. Petersburg Conservatory between 1905 and 1928. At St. Petersburg, Lourié also became closely associated with the Futurist artistic circle of the city.
Following the October Revolution of 1917 Lourié was appointed head of the Music Division of the People’s Commissariat of Enlightenment (the Ministry of Education or Narkompros as it was abbreviated) and made several reforms in music education. Education was a priority in post-revolutionary Russia, and new instruction books were required reflecting the new values in society. This resulted in a surge in the publication of books, including children’s books, which were often illustrated by avant-garde artists.
Lourié’s Roial′ v detskoi, or The Piano in the Nursery, was composed in 1917 and published in 1920 by the music division of the State Publishing House (Gosudarstvennoe muzykalʹnoe izdatelʹstvo). The edition contains illustrations by the graphic artist and painter Petr Vasilievich Miturich (1887–1956), who also painted a portrait of the composer in 1915.
Although Lourié was a supporter of the Russian Revolution and the Bolsheviks, he resigned from his government post in 1921 and moved to Berlin in 1922 and from there to France in 1924, where he became closely acquainted with Stravinsky. In 1941, following the outbreak of the Second World War, he settled in the USA where he died in 1966. His music was particularly influenced by composers such as Debussy, Scriabin, Busoni and Stravinsky.