Prince Vladimir Feodorovich Odoevsky was an outstanding Russian thinker, person of encyclopedic learning, writer, philosopher, scholar and ethnographer, who greatly contributed to the founding of the Russian Musical Society (RMS, from 1873 – the Imperial Russian Musical Society, IRMO) in Moscow and the founding of the Moscow Conservatory.
In 1822 he graduated from the Noble Boarding School affiliated with the Moscow University. He studied music since childhood, and his teachers included the English composer John Field, who taught him piano. In 1826-1827 Odoyevsky studied music theory and composition with I.G. Miller, composing a number of musical works (including those for organ). From the early 1820s he became active in the sphere of literature and contributed to the most important Russian magazines. He was one of the organizers and the chairman of the first philosophical circle in Russia, the “Society of Love of Wisdom” (1823-1825).
During the years 1826-1862 he lived in St. Petersburg, holding high positions in ministries and the Senate. He served in the Committee for Censorship and was the director of the Rumyantsev Museum. For a certain period of time he was a steward of the household in the court of the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna. He was in close communication with the poets Aleksandr Pushkin, Aleksandr Griboyedov and Dmitry Venevitinov, and later with Mikhail Lermontov, Nikolay Gogol, Aleksandr Ostrovsky, Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin and many others. He was one of the first writers to turn in his literary works to the theme of the artistic legacy of musicians (in his novelette: “The Last Quartet of Beethoven,” 1831; “Sebastian Bach,” in 1835). His closest friend was composer Mikhail Glinka.
In 1862 Odoyevsky moved to Moscow because of the relocation of the Rumyantsev Museum. He actively promoted the idea of establishing a permanent opera theater in Russia. Together with playwright Aleksandr Ostrovsky, Nikolay Rubinstein and actor from the Maly Theater Prov Mikhailovich Sadovsky, he was the organizer in 1865 of the “Artistic Circle” – a salon for the city’s intellectual and artistic elite.
A man of encyclopedic knowledge, Odoyevsky during the “Moscow” period of his life was concentrating his main interests on music. He was one of the founders and initiators of the discipline of musicology in Russia, having greatly contributed to developing the questions of Russian musical-theoretical terminology, musical acoustics, study of musical folklore and study of Early Russian Church singing; he attempted to construct a “system of philosophy of music” and was an inventor and builder of new musical instruments (including the “enharmonic” organ, the “Sebastianon” and others).
He participated in the organization of the Russian Musical Society (RMS, from 1873 – the Imperial RMS) in St. Petersburg in 1859, then, a month later, the RMO in Moscow (he was the honorary member, the member of the Consultative Commission of this society). He exerted a determinative influence on Nikolay Rubinstein, on his understanding of the objectives and the essential structure of the Moscow Conservatory. Upon his initiative the Department of History of Early Russian Church Music was established in the Conservatory, a singular department of its kind, and doctor of theology, archpriest Dimitry Razumovsky was invited to direct it; in addition, a gratuitous class of choral singing according to the system of Émile Chevé was introduced (organized in 1864 as part of the Musical Courses of the RMS in Moscow), directed by Karl Karlovich Albrecht.
After the death of the Prince, following his will, his wife, Olga Stepanovna donated to the Moscow Conservatory books and scores from his personal library and musical instruments and acoustic devices which belonged to him.