Russian composer and critic. As a member of the famous "Five" (Mili Balakirev, Cui, Mussorgsky, Alexander Borodin, and Rimsky-Korsakov) he was one of the founders of the nationalist movement in Russian music.
He entered a school for military engineers in St. Petersburg, was commissioned in 1855.
Had a long and distinguished career in the Russian army. He became a general and an authority on fortifications. His meeting with Balakirev in 1857 aroused his passion for musical composition. He became Balakirev's pupil, and later one of the "Five" (also called the "Mighty Handful") who strongly espoused a new nationalist music. His works include ten operas, of which William Ratcliffe (1869), after Heinrich Heine, is best known. All were failures. He also composed many short orchestral pieces, three string quartets, 30 choruses, many short pieces for the violin and the piano, and more than 200 songs.