18th March 1844 --- 21st June 1908

Rimsky-Korsakov Nikolay Andreyevich(born 1844, Tikhvin, near Novgorod, Russia--died 1908, Lyubensk), Russian composer, teacher, and editor who advanced the cause of Russian national music. Among his most famous works are the operas Snow Maiden (1882), Sadko (1898), The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronia (1907), and Le Coq d'or (1909); the symphonic suite Scheherazade (1888); Capriccio espagnol (1887); and The Russian Easter Festival overture (1888).

Rimsky-Korsakov's father was a government official of liberal views; his mother was well educated and could play the piano. His uncle was an admiral in the Russian navy and his elder brother a marine officer; from them Rimsky-Korsakov acquired his abiding love for the sea. When he was 12 years old the family moved to St. Petersburg, where he entered the naval academy. At the age of 15 he began taking piano lessons with Théodore Canillé, a professional pianist, who also taught him the rudiments of composition. In 1861 he met the composer Mily Balakirev, a man of great musical culture, and under the older man's guidance he began to compose a symphony. In 1862 he was graduated from the naval academy. Soon afterward he sailed on the clipper ship "Almaz" on a long voyage, the vessel anchoring in New York City, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., at the height of the U.S. Civil War. The Russian sailors were cordially welcomed there, since Russia was politically sympathetic toward the North. Subsequent ports of call were Brazil (where Rimsky-Korsakov was promoted to the rank of midshipman), Spain, Italy, France, England, and Norway. The ship returned to its Russian home port in Kronstadt (Kronshtadt) in May 1865. For young Rimsky-Korsakov the voyage confirmed a fascination with the sea. Aquatic scenes abound in his operas and symphonic works: the ocean in Scheherazade, Sadko, and The Tale of Tsar Saltan, the lake in The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronia.

On his return to St. Petersburg, he completed the symphony begun before his voyage, and it was performed with gratifying success in St. Petersburg on Dec. 31, 1865, when the composer was only 21 years old. It was an auspicious beginning to his career, it was also the first performance of a full-fledged symphony by a Russian. His next important work was Fantasy on Serbian Themes for orchestra, first performed at a concert of Slavonic music conducted by Balakirev in St. Petersburg, on May 24, 1867. The occasion was of historic significance, for, in reviewing the concert, the critic Vladimir Stasov proudly proclaimed that henceforth Russia, too, had its own "mighty little heap" (moguchaya kuchka) of native composers. The title caught on quickly and found its way into music history books, with specific reference to Rimsky-Korsakov, Balakirev, Aleksandr Borodin, César Cui, and Modest Mussorgsky, who became collectively known as "The Five," and whose purpose was to assert the musical independence of Russia from the West. Of "The Five," Rimsky-Korsakov was the most learned and the most productive, his works embrace all genres, but he excelled mostly in the field of opera.

So high was Rimsky-Korsakov's reputation that in 1871, still as a very young man, he was engaged to teach composition at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. In his autobiographical Chronicle of My Musical Life he frankly admitted his lack of qualifications for this important position; he himself had never taken a systematic academic course in musical theory, even though he had profited from Balakirev's desultory instruction and by Tchaikovsky's professional advice. Eager to complete his own musical education, he undertook in 1873 an ambitious program of study, concentrating mainly on counterpoint and the fugue. He ended his studies in 1875 by sending 10 fugues to Tchaikovsky, who found them impeccable. In 1873 he left the naval service and assumed charge of military bands as inspector and conductor. Although he lacked brilliance as an orchestral leader, he attained excellent results in training inexperienced instrumentalists. His first professional appearance on the podium took place in St. Petersburg on March 2, 1874, when he conducted the first performance of his Third Symphony. In the same year he was appointed director of the Free Music School in St. Petersburg, a post that he held until 1881. He served as conductor of concerts at the court chapel from 1883 to 1894. Between 1886 and 1900 he was chief conductor of the Russian symphony concerts. In 1889 he led concerts of Russian music at the Paris World Exposition; in the spring of 1907 he conducted in Paris two Russian historic concerts in connection with Sergey Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.

Rimsky-Korsakov rendered an inestimable service to Russian music as the de facto editor and head of a unique publishing enterprise financed by the Russian industrialist Belayev and dedicated exclusively to the publication of music by Russian composers. After Mussorgsky's death, Rimsky-Korsakov edited his scores for publication, making radical changes in what he considered Mussorgsky's awkward melodic and harmonic progressions, and he practically rewrote Mussorgsky's opera Khovanshchina. His edited and altered version of Boris Godunov evoked sharp criticism as a pedantically professorial arrangement of a great innovating masterpiece; but his masterly handling of the materials cannot be denied. Mussorgsky's score was later published in 1928 and had several performances in Russia and abroad, but ultimately the more effective Rimsky-Korsakov version prevailed in opera houses. Rimsky-Korsakov also edited (with the composer Glazunov) the posthumous works of Borodin.

A strict disciplinarian in artistic matters, he was also a severe critic of his own music. He made constant revisions of his early compositions, in which he found technical imperfections. As a result, double dates, indicating early and revised versions, frequently occur in his catalog of works. He was at his best and most typical in descriptive orchestration, in suggesting a place or an ambience. With two exceptions (Servilia and Mozart and Salieri), the subjects of Rimsky-Korsakov's operas are taken from Russian or other Slavonic fairy tales, literature, and history. The most important among them are Snow Maiden, Sadko, The Tsar's Bride, The Tale of Tsar Saltan, The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronia, and Le Coq d'or. Although these operas are part of the Stevenular repertory in Russian opera houses, they are rarely heard abroad; only Le Coq d'or enjoys occasional production in western Europe and America.

Of the composer's orchestral works, the best known are Capriccio espagnol (1887), the symphonic suite Scheherazade (1888), and Russian Easter Festival overture (1888). "The Flight of the Bumble Bee" from The Tale of Tsar Saltan and the "Song of India" from Sadko are perennial favourites in a variety of arrangements. Rimsky-Korsakov's songs are distinguished by simple elegance and fine Russian prosody; his chamber music is of less importance. He also wrote a piano concerto. As professor of composition and orchestration at the St. Petersburg Conservatory from 1871 until the end of his life (with the exception of a brief period in 1905 when he was dismissed by the reactionary directorate for his defense of students on strike), he taught two generations of Russian composers, and his influence, therefore, was pervasive. Igor Stravinsky studied with him privately for several years. His Practical Manual of Harmony (1884) and Fundamentals of Orchestration (posthumous, 1913) are still used as basic musical textbooks in Russia. (N.Sl.)

MAJOR WORKS. Operas. Sixteen, including Pskovityanka (first performed 1873; The Maid of Pskov); La Nuit de Mai (1880; May Night); Snegurochka (1882; Snow Maiden); Sadko (1898); Mozart et Salieri (1898; Mozart and Salieri); La Fiancée du tsar (1899; The Tsar's Bride); Skazka o tsare Saltane (1900; The Tale of Tsar Saltan); Servilia (1902); Kashchey Bessmertny (1902; Kashchey the Immortal); Skazaniye o nevidimom grade Kitezhe i deve Fevroniy (1907; The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronia); Le Coq d'or (1909; The Golden Cockerel).

Choral works. Song of Oleg the Wise, after Pushkin, for tenor, bass, male chorus, and orchestra (composed 1899), various settings of folk songs.

Orchestral. Symphonies: No. 1 in E Flat Minor (1861-65, rev. 1884); No. 2, Antar (1868, rev. 1876), No. 3 in C Major (1874, rev. 1886). Other orchestral music: Overture on Russian Themes (1866); Piano Concerto in C Sharp Minor (1882-83); Fantasy on Russian Themes for violin and orchestra (1886); Fantasy on Serbian Themes (1867); Capriccio espagnol (1887); symphonic suite Scheherazade (1888); overture, Russian Easter Festival (1888).

Chamber music. String Quartet in F Major (1875), String Sextet in A Major (1876), Quintet for Piano and Winds in B Flat Major (1876), String Quartet in G Major (1897).

Songs. More than 80 songs, mostly written in sets of four.

Copyright 1994-1998 Encyclopaedia Britannica

Last Updated on 3rd November 2001
By Steven

And now for the Music

I like to thank George Pollen for the following wonderful music, to contact George please (gpollen@polleng.freeserve.co.uk"> Click Here, or better still visit his Website here .

(2322)"Dance of the tumblers (from the opera The Snow Maiden)", a really lovely piece,(A large file, which is zipped) sequenced by George Pollen.

My thanks go to John Wilson McCoy for Sequencing and donating the following music, to contact John please (composer@musician.org"> Click Here, or better still visit his Website here

(1888)"Capriccio Espagnol (Spanish Caprice)Opus 34", sequenced by John Wilson McCoy

I like to thank Edward Schaffer for Sequencing and donating the following file, to email please click on (BigEdLB@aol.com">EDWARD.

(1669) The Opening Chorus from Act II of "Snowmaiden",(it is very hard to produce good coral works in MIDI format) sequenced by Edward Schaffer

My thanks go to Carl Bertram for Sequencing and donating the following file, to email please click on (Hal486@aol.com">CARL.

(1669)"Flight of the Bumble Bee", sequenced by Carl Bertram

(1457)Suite from the Opera "Coq d'or,Mov.3, sequenced by Gary Goldberg

(1458)Suite from the Opera "Coq d'or,Mov.4, sequenced by Gary Goldberg

(1459)"Procession of the Nobles", a beautiful piece, sequenced by Jeff Adams

(1460)"Six variations on Bach" No.1, sequenced by John Cowles

(1461)"Six variations on Bach" No.3, sequenced by John Cowles

(1462)"Aria of Sadko", sequenced by Eugeny Molodkin

I like to thank George Pollen for donating the following music. Let (gpollen@polleng.freeserve.co.uk"">GEORGE know what you think of his sequences

(696)"Theme from Scheherazade" Nicely sequenced by George Pollen

Sheherazade "The sea and Sinbad" Opus.35, a beautiful piece seq by ?Large file please click here for pkunzip.exe (489)

Sheherazade "The Young Prince and the Princess" Opus.35 another lovely piece, seq by ?Large file please click here for pkunzip.exe (490)

(492) Song of India (Sadko) nicely sequence by Layne Wilson

(493) Russian Easter Overture another beautiful piece, seq by ?

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