Work: Flight of the Bumblebee
About This Work
Rimsky-Korsakov was quite prolific in the realm of opera, having completed 15, leaving four others in sketch form. The Tale of Tsar Saltan was the tenth and its music is among the most-familiar scores the composer wrote, both in operatic form and in
the suite derived from the opera. The Flight of the Bumblebee has emerged as the score's most-famous musical passage, arguably as familiar-sounding as anything in Scheherazade, Rimsky-Korsakov's most often-heard large work. Though many recordings of the Tsar Saltan Suite include it, The Flight of the Bumblebee is not a part of that work. It has also appeared in various arrangements for piano (Cziffra made a well-known one), for violin and piano, for brass ensemble, and many other instrumental combinations. The music occurs in the opera when Prince Gvidon consents to be turned into a bumblebee by a magical Swan, whose life he saved in his youth. The strings are heard buzzing hurriedly about at the outset, brilliantly conveying images of a busy bee racing about. A flute and later, a clarinet, joins in the fun, though the orchestral soloists negotiating the myriad of notes at breakneck speed may consider it anything but fun. Eventually, the Russian-flavored counter theme, played throughout in the background by pizzicato strings, is played more emphatically by low, pizzicato strings against the buzzing and bustling strings. The whole piece, all two minutes or so of it, is brilliant and colorful, its music having an instant catchiness.
-- Robert Cummings
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