Aleksandra Unkovskaia, née Zakhar’ina (d. 1920s) was a violinist and a conductor.
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Balakirev, Musorgsky, and their friends, the young musician pioneers of the new music, were frequently at my father’s home1 in Petersburg. Almost every day and evening we had music. As a child I would fall asleep to music around nine o’clock. After a good night’s sleep, I would awake at about four o’clock in the morning to more music. I knew Glinka’s opera Zhizn’ za tsaria [A life for the tsar], Ruslan i Liudmila [Ruslan and Ludmila], and Dargomyzhsky’s opera Rusalka by heart, since they were performed almost every day in our house. Maman2—an excellent pianist and a student of Henselt—was the orchestra; the operatic arias were shared by my father and his friends. However, as quite often there were not enough friends for all the parts, one person would perform several roles, and everybody would sing the chorus. The men sang the female parts, and Uncle Mitia, Maman’s brother, even found a way to sing Liudmila’s part in Ruslan, in a woman’s voice, in the proper register, perfectly performing all the fioritturas. . . . Sometimes they even dressed in costumes—everyone had a good time, studying the music of the Russian classics in an atmosphere of carefree delight.
The foreign classics were also played in our house, and when Beethoven’s fugues were played, the young composer Borozdin3 would start dancing to them.