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1844 - 1908

Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (18 March [O.S. 6 March] 1844 – 21 June [O.S. 8 June] 1908) was a Russian composer, and a member of the group of composers known as The Five. He was a master of orchestration. His best-known orchestral compositions—Capriccio Espagnol, the Russian Easter Festival Overture, and the symphonic suite Scheherazade—are staples of the classical music repertoire, along with suites and excerpts from some of his 15 operas. Scheherazade is an example of his frequent use of fairy tale and folk subjects.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was born in Tikhvin in Russia. There he first heard the simple folk songs that left an indelible impression. His early ambitions lay not in music, however, but in a burning desire to become a naval officer. He joined the Corps of Naval Cadets in 1856 and while at sea composed a symphony, completed in 1865 with the encouragement of the composer Balakirev. The work showed great promise, especially in its orchestration; subsequently he was offered the professorship of composition at the St Petersburg Conservatoire. He was 27 years old.

Although unqualified for the position, he accepted and immediately became one of the most assiduous pupils, secretly studying harmony and counterpoint. Shortly afterwards he married Nadezhda Purgold, also a composer, and at that time a musician far superior to her husband.

During his self-imposed programme of study he produced compositions that were dry and academic; but in 1882 his opera The snow maiden revealed a new, more personal voice with its clever intertwining of fantasy and comedy. Surprisingly, the next few years yielded no new compositions. Finally 1887 ushered in an era of fresh creativity, inaugurated with the Gapriccio espagnol. This fantastically virtuosic work was interrupted at its rehearsals by applause from the orchestra itself, and was encored in full at its premiere. There followed the Russian Easter festival overture and then the exotic Sheherazade, derived from the classic tale the Thousand and one nights. All three works demonstrate Rimsky's mastery of orchestration.

In 1888, Rimsky heard the first performances in Russia of Wagner's Ring cycle, and was so overwhelmed that he resolved in future only to write operas. Over the next 20 years he composed 12, including Christmas Eve, Mozart and Salieri — based on Pushkin's play — and one of his finest works, Sadko. A setting of Russian folk legends, this work contains the famous "Hindu" song and marks the high point of Rimsky's love affair with the fantastic.

Rimsky's last completed opera, The Golden Cockerel (1907), based on Pushkin's satire about a bumbling autocracy, was banned by the Russian censor and remained unperformed during the composer's lifetime. His gift for lively and colourfulorchestration is as alive in this work as throughout his entire output.

Key Works


Capriccio Espagnol

I. Alborada (Vivo e Strepitoso) 00:12
II. Variazioni (Andante con Moto) 01:31
III. Alborada # 2 (Vivo e Strepitoso) 06:19
IV. Scena e Canto Gitano (Allegretto) 07:36
V. Fandango Asturiano 12:08

Piano Concerto in C sharp minor, Op. 30

I. Moderato 0:00
II. Allegretto quasi polacca 3:37
III. Allegro 10:33

Russian Easter Overture, op. 36

Piano Quintet in B Flat Major

Christmas Eve: Orchestral Suite

I. Christmas Night
II. Ballet of the Stars
III. Witches' Sabbath and Ride on the Devil's Back
IV. Polonaise
V. Vakula and the Slippers

Suite Tsar Saltan

The Snow Maiden, Suite from the opera

Le Coq d'Or - Suite

King Dodon in his Palace 0:00
King Dodon on the Battlefield 9:13
King Dodon with Queen Shemakha 13:44
Marriage Feast and Lamentable End of King Dodon 20:26

Sadko - suite, Op.5

Sadko on the Calm Sea 0:00
The Creatures of the Sea-King's Submarine Court 3:03
Sadko Sings Accompanied by his Gusli 4:36
Dance of the Sea Creatures to Sadko's Music 6:43
Sadko's Rescue and Return to his Home by St. Nicholas 10:33

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