Alexey Stanchinsky was a child prodigy who was playing the piano and composing his first musical works by the age of six. At age 11, Stanchinsky's family relocated to the village of Logachevo, an area rich with folk music; Logachevo likewise provided an environment for Mikhail Glinka's beginnings as a composer. Stanchinsky enrolled in the Smolensk High School, primarily studying piano, but also taking composition with Alexander Grechaninov. Grechaninov recognized Stanchinsky's unique aptitude for writing music, and arranged in 1907 for Stanchinsky, then 16, to enter Sergei Taneyev's classes at the Moscow Conservatoire. Taneyev further nurtured Stanchinsky's musical talents, but was often confused by Stanchinsky's independence of mind and predilection for unusual solutions to standard lessons.
In 1908, Stanchinsky's father died, and the budding composer came apart at the seams. Schizophrenia was diagnosed, and Stanchinsky spent most of that year in a mental ward. During this time, Stanchinsky destroyed most of his early musical manuscripts, and upon recovery demonstrated an increased reliance on contrapuntal devices such as canon and fugue. Free composition soon proved alien to Stanchinsky's basic approach, and the main body of his work is executed in strictly controlled forms, combined with melodic content derived from folk song. Stanchinsky has been called a "Diatonic Webern" in his extreme economy of means, and while his music demonstrates knowledge of Scriabin and utilizes an expanded harmonic language for its time, his work is not atonal and does not make use of pitch organization. In 1910, Stanchinsky returned to the Smolensk region to collect folk songs, and wrote the better part of his surviving output between 1911 and 1914.
Outside of three chamber works and a single song cycle (untitled), all of Stanchinsky's 20 compositions are composed for the piano. In the fall of 1913 Stanchinsky had sufficiently recovered to return to Moscow and resume his courses with Taneyev. In May 1914, Stanchinsky gave his only public recital as part of a showcase for young Russian composers, and music critics, who predicted a great future for the young composer, warmly praised Stanchinsky's efforts. Unfortunately, Stanchinsky's promise would remain unrealized; in October 1914 his body was discovered lying alongside a stream located on property belonging to the family of a friend. Several explanations have been put forward for his death at age 26 and its cause, but none are accepted as definitive, and this event remains a mystery.
Even before Stanchinsky's early demise, his reputation was well established among his peers. While Stanchinsky was not published during his lifetime, unauthorized manuscript copies of Stanchinsky's musical works were widely disseminated among musicians in Russia before the revolution. After Stanchinsky's death a published edition was undertaken, but this was beset by delays and not completed until 1930. By that time both Stanchinsky and his sphere of influence were regarded as irrelevant by political powers in Soviet Russia, and he soon took his place among the silenced and forgotten "futurist" Russian composers of the era. This was in spite of the fact that Stanchinsky's short life and small amount of work belonged to the Tsarist era, and had little to do with Russian Futurism