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Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Biography

Born: Mar 18, 1844; Russia   Died: Jun 21, 1908; Russia   Period: Romantic
Mainly known for his symphonic works, especially the popular symphonic suite Sheherazade, as well as the Capriccio Espagnol and the Russian Easter Festival Overture, Rimsky-Korsakov left an oeuvre that also included operas, chamber works, and songs. Rimsky-Korsakov's music is accessible and engaging owing to his talent for tone-coloring and brilliant orchestration. Furthermore, his operas are masterful musical evocations of myths and Read more legends.
Born in 1844, Rimsky-Korsakov studied the piano as a child but chose a naval career, entering the College of Naval Cadets in St. Petersburg in 1856. However, he continued with piano lessons; in fact, in 1859, Rimsky-Korsakov started working with the French pianist Theodore Canille, through whom he met Balakirev, an important mentor and friend.
In 1862, after graduating form the naval school, Rimsky-Korsakov was at sea for two and a half years, devoting his free time to composition. Upon Rimsky-Korsakov's return to St. Petersburg, in 1865, Balakirev conducted his friend's First Symphony, which was hailed as the first important symphonic work by a Russian composer.
Rimsky-Korsakov was appointed professor of composition and orchestration at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1871. The following year, he married Nadezhda Purgold, a pianist. In 1873, Rimsky-Korsakov left active duty, becoming inspector of navy orchestras, a job which he held until 1884.
During the 1870s, Rimsky-Korsakov composed, conducted, and collected Russian folk songs. In 1878, he started composing the opera May Night, after a story by Nikolai Gogol, his first stage work based on a story containing fantastic motifs. Following the production of May Night, in 1880, Rimsky-Korsakov began work on Snow Maiden, based on Nikolai Ostrovsky's poetic retelling of a Slavic myth, which was performed in 1882.
Saddened by Mussorgsky's death, in 1881, Rimsky-Korsakov devoted himself to editing his friend's unpublished manuscripts. A master orchestrator, Rimsky-Korsakov felt obliged to help colleagues whose manuscripts needed revision. Thus, in 1887, when Borodin died, Rimsky-Korsakov agreed to orchestrate and complete Borodin's opera Prince Igor.
Rimsky-Korsakov wrote the Spanish Capriccio in 1887, completing the Russian Easter Overture and Sheherazade the following year. Having composed these resplendent works, however, Rimsky-Korsakov went through a period of despondency; there were deaths in his family, and, in 1893, Tchaikovsky died.
In 1895, Rimsky-Korsakov's Christmas Eve, another opera after a Gogol story, was produced. The composer's subsequent works recreated the rich world of Russian myths and legends. Sadko, completed in 1896, conjured up a medieval Russian legend. In 1901, Rimsky-Korsakov blended the legend of Kitezh and the story of St. Fevroniya to create a complex Christian-pantheistic narrative. Completed in 1905, the year when the politically progressive composer was temporarily dismissed from this teaching post, The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden, was produced in 1907.
Rimsky-Korsakov's last opera, The Golden Cockerel, completed in 1907, was inspired by a politically subversive story by Alexander Pushkin. The production of this work was a struggle, because the subject matter aroused suspicions among government censors. The opera was finally produced, in 1909, the year following the composer's death, by a private opera company in Moscow. Read less
Rimsky-Korsakov: Sheherazade, Tsar Saltan Suite / Schwarz, Seattle Symphony
Release Date: 02/22/2011   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8572693   Number of Discs: 1
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Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio Espagnol, Overtures / Schwarz, Seattle Symphony
Release Date: 09/27/2011   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8572788   Number of Discs: 1
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Rimsky-Korsakov: Snow Maiden, Sadko, Mlada, Le Coq d'Or / Schwarz, Seattle Symphony
Release Date: 12/13/2011   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8572787   Number of Discs: 1
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Rimsky-korsakov: The Maid Of Pskov, Etc / Golovchin, Moscow
Release Date: 02/20/2001   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8553513   Number of Discs: 1
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Rimsky-korsakov: Pan Voyevoda, Etc / Golovchin, Moscow So
Release Date: 06/22/1999   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8553858   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Tale of Tsar Saltan: Suite, Op. 57

 

About This Work
This opera, composed in 1889 - 1890 to a libretto by Vladimir Belsky, was introduced at Moscow on November 3, 1900. "Little Pictures" for triple winds, brass, several drums, metal percussion, harp, celesta, and strings were extracted. Read more />
In the New Grove entry on Rimsky-Korsakov, Gerald Abraham branded most of the operas "musico-scenic fairy tales" lacking in specific characterization. Alexander Pushkin's writings exerted a mighty influence, inspiring three of the 15 operas: Mozart and Salieri in 1897, The Golden Cockerel (Rimsky's last) in 1907, and -- to give the work its full title -- The Tale of Tsar Saltan, of his son the famous and mighty hero Prince Guidon Saltanovich, and of the beautiful Swan Princess, all in a prolog with four acts.

Rimsky introduced all four acts with the same brass fanfare (Stravinsky used the same idea as a snare-drum roll in Petrushka). For the original three movements of the Tsar Saltan suite -- The Flight of the Bumblebee became a separate concert-piece, although it is usually performed with "Little Pictures" -- Rimsky retained the fanfare as an idée fixe (he had read Berlioz, too).

The marches in "The Tsar's Departure and Farewell" comprise the prelude to Act I. "The Tsarina in a Barrel at Sea" was the prelude to Act II. The prelude to scene 2 in the final act became "The Three Wonders" -- first, the Swan Princess herself; second a whistling squirrel that cracks nuts with emerald meats, and third, a flood of Guidon's island that leaves behind 33 golden-helmeted warriors. The Bumblebee was extracted from Act III. Both the first and third "Little Pictures" are brimful of melodies and orchestral flourishes, but more remarkable is the stormy, sea-tossed centerpiece, a tour de force without any melody, just orchestration at the service of pure harmony.

-- Roger Dettmer Read less

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