In the late 1800's, a young aristocrat named Vasily Vasil'yevich
Andreev was probably the first figure in Russian history to start
collecting Russian folk songs. Whilst studying in the village of
Mar'ino, he became overwhelmed by the beauty of the balalaika sound,
the instrument being played by many peasants in his estate. In fact,
he even attempted to introduce it into the higher ranked society,
but the crude instrument on which he was playing was not welcomed
by the Russian aristocracy.
Andreyev then began a long collaboration with two violin makers,
V. Ivanov and Francois Paserbski and a carpenter, Semeon Nalimov.
The four set about reconstructing the balalaika by giving it frets,
enlarging the soundboard and body, so that it could be performed
on the concert stage. Andreyev became an acclaimed balalaika performer
and teacher, often known as 'the father of the balalaika'.
He began experimenting with the instrument, creating a whole family
of balalaikas - prima, sekunda, alto, bass and contrabass which
provided a full spectrum of sound from soprano to low bass in a
manner similar to the string family in the symphony orchestra. Andreyev
also added the important domra family of instruments to his orchestra,
along with the 'gusli', a table autoharp of the psaltery family.
Three generations of balalaika players have since descended from
Andreyev's school. Whilst professional composers have written for
the instrument, everything from solo pieces to concertos. However,
folk music still dominated in the repertoire of balalaika, which
was brought to prominence in Russian music by Vasiliy Andreyev.