The Cyber-Cave

Reflections on the political, technological, cultural and economic trends of the world

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908): originally a military officer of the Russian Navy and a musical autodidact, he later decided to dedicate his whole life to music. Balakirev introduced him to the ‘Group of Five’. According to Rimsky-Korsakov’s own memoirs (“My musical life”), Balakirev’s music philosophy had a huge influence in his early style.
However, Rimsky-Korsakov soon realised the limits of Balakirev‘s teachings when he became professor of composition of orchestration at the St.Petersburg Conservatory (one of his pupils will be Stravinsky). Rimsky-Korsakov realised that much of the musical academic body that Balakirev so much despised was a sine qua non to become a better composer. Indeed, Rimsky-Korsakov went through intense self-study in counterpoint and harmony.
He had a cordial relationship with Tchaikovsky, though the ‘Mighty Handful’ were generally skeptical about musicians of the Moscow Conservatory. Both praised the works of each other. Rimsky-Korsakov had so much regretted not taking academic training in his early life, that the spent much time writing fugues and counterpoint exercises that he sent to Tchaikovsky to be marked. Tchaikovsky was positively impressed- he considered Rimsky-Korsakov to be the only ‘serious’ talent of the ‘Mighty Handful’.
Later Rimsky-Korsakov joined Belyayev’s circle which encouraged composers to have a Russian folkloristic style but without abandoning essential academic training.
Belyayev and his inner circle would also gather to decide which composers to sponsor financially.
Rimsky-Korsakov supported the failed 1905 Revolution- as a result he was dismissed from his job at the Conservatory.
With the help of Daghilev, he conducted some works in Paris thereby helping to popularise Russian music in Europe.

MY FAVOURITE WORKS:
-Four Romances op.2 (1865) [special mention for ‘Oriental Romance: the Nightingale and the rose’]
-Fantasia on Serbian Themes (1867)
-Quintet in B flat (1876)
-At the Monastery (fugue) (1879)
-Variations on a theme by Glinka for oboe (1878)
-Capriccio Espagnol (1887)
-Fantasy on Two Russian Themes, for violin and orchestra (1887)
-Russian Easter Festival Overture (1888)
-Scheherazade (1888) [one of the most memorable compositions to come from the Russian nationalist school]
-Mlada (suite) (1890)
-Sadko (suite) (1896)
-Trio in C minor (1897)
-The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya (suite) (1904)
-Antar: symphonic suite (1903 revised version)
-The Tale of Tsar Sultan (suite) (1903)
-Christmas Eve (suite) (1903)
-Pan Voyevoda (suite) (1903)
-Our Father (sacred music)
-Neapolitan Song (1907)
-The Golden Cockerel (suite) (1907)

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