Léon Minkus

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Léon (Ludwig) Minkus, Paris, circa 1870. Image: B. Braquehais

Léon Minkus , actually Ludwig Alois Minkus (born March 23, 1826 in Vienna ; † December 7, 1917 there ) was an Austro-Hungarian ballet composer , conductor and teacher of Czech and Polish origins.


Little is known about his life and his biographical information - including place of birth and death - is controversial. Rumors are circulating that he died around 1890. His brother Eugen Minkus (1841, Vienna – 1923, Vienna) was director and president of the Vienna Union Bank and was ennobled in 1915 .

From 1853 on, Minkus became the orchestra leader and violin soloist in Prince Nikolai Yusupov's (1827-1891) orchestra, which was composed of serfs. Two years later he joined the orchestra of the Italian Opera Theater in Saint Petersburg . He also taught violin . In 1861 he began working in the Bolshoi Theater , initially as a violin soloist and a year later as a conductor with the title “Inspector of the Orchestra”. In 1863 he composed the music for Saint-Léon's Fiametta , in 1864 an abridged version was performed in Paris and Némea . In the same year he was appointed a ballet composer of the Bolshoi Theater. Minkus maintained his relations with Paris the whole time, where he wrote most of the ballet The Source in 1866 - 20 years after his debut . One act was dedicated exclusively to the young Léo Délibes . Back in Russia , Minkus began to write ballets based on works by Petipa . In 1868 Petipa planned his Don Quixote for the Bolshoi Ballet with music by Minkus. The premiere in 1869 was a great success and earned him the position of official composer of the Russian Imperial Ballet , which had previously been occupied by the Italian Cesare Pugni , who composed more than 300 ballet works. Minkus used this position until 1886 and wrote numerous successful compositions such as La Bayadère in 1877 .

Minkus also wrote additions to existing ballet music, such as, at Petipa's request, for acts one and two from Giselle . Dissatisfied with his pension from the Russian government, he withdrew to Vienna, where he died of pneumonia in 1917 .

The grave of Léon Minkus was in the Döblinger Friedhof in Vienna. The National Socialist government of the German Reich had graves of people of Jewish origin removed from the 1930s; so is the composer's final resting place. The remains were exhumed in 1939 and probably buried in a mass grave.

If one compares Minkus' work with his contemporary Tchaikovsky , one should take into account that Minkus was a ballet composer of melodic and rhythmically appealing works. His work sometimes lacks the demanding penetration with regard to the instrumentation, but it thrives on the emotional richness that gives the dancers sufficient opportunity for individual development, because the music does not push itself into the foreground, but accompanies the ballet. In his ballet works in particular, the audience often experiences the desire to take part in the dance.


Web links

Commons : Ludwig Minkus  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Roman Sandgruber : Dreamtime for Millionaires. The 929 richest Viennese in 1910. Styria Premium , Graz 2013, ISBN 978-3-222-13405-0 , p. 405