Anatoly Liadov received initial music lessons from his father, Konstantin Liadov, who was the principal conductor at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. In 1870 Liadov became a student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory studying piano and violin. In the 1870s Liadov acquainted with the group of Russian composers known as The Five. This led him to participate in Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s composition class at the conservatory, where Liadov himself began to teach in 1878.
Liadov completed his tone poem Baba-Yaga, Op. 56 in 1904. Its first performance took place in St. Petersburg on March 18 of the same year. The composition requires a large orchestra, calling for piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, English horn, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four French horns, two trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani and a variety of percussion instruments, and strings. The size of the orchestra, however, does not match that of the composition. The piece is not a lengthy work. It only takes approximately three and a half minutes to perform. The tone poem is about Baba-Yaga, a witch in eastern European folklore. Baba-Yaga lives deep in the forest and may help or hinder people she sees. Before Liadov, Modest Mussorgsky had dealt with the same topic, writing “The Hut on Hen’s Legs,” a movement in his Pictures at an Exhibition.