Folk Musician, Impresario. Often called "The Father of the Balalaika". Born into a noble family in Russia's Tverskoi Province, Andreyev started out as a salon violinist. He switched to the balalaika around 1883 after discovering its unique sound in a local village. At the time it was a crude peasant instrument of probable Tartar origin, mentioned in the writings of Gogol and Tolstoy but ignored by serious musicians. With the aid of lutemakers he redesigned it for concert use, developed five different sizes (from soprano to bass) to provide the same range of tones as the violin family, and trained an octet of players in their techniques. The Andreyev Ensemble of Balalaika Players, Russia's first professional folk orchestra, caused a sensation at its 1888 St. Petersburg debut. A command performance for Czar Alexander III in 1892 led to their official sponsorship as the Great Russian Imperial Balalaika Orchestra; under this moniker they made several tours of Europe and visited the United States in 1910. In addition to acting as frontman and publicist, Andreyev arranged folk songs for their repertory and wrote original material, including the popular tunes "In the Moonlight", "Under the Apple Tree", and "Waltz of the Faun". His liberal political views cost him the support of the Romanovs during World War I and he sided with the Bolsheviks after the 1917 Revolution. He died of typhus while on tour entertaining Red Army troops. After his death his ensemble continued as the State Russian Folk Orchestra and since 1946 it has been known as the Osipov Balalaika Orchestra. Andreyev's efforts had a significant impact of Soviet-era music. Encouraged by Lenin and later Stalin, folk music groups sprang up throughout the country and balalaikas were frequently used instead of strings in traditional orchestras, notably that of the famous Red Army Chorus. The instrument enjoyed a brief international vogue after composer Maurice Jarre used it in his hit "Lara's Theme" for the film "Doctor Zhivago" (1965).
Bio by: Bobb Edwards