Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov  
Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, in full Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (born March 6 [March 18, New Style], 1844, Tikhvin, near Novgorod, Russia—died June 8 [June 21], 1908, Lyubensk), Russian composer, teacher, and editor who was at his best in descriptive orchestrations suggesting a mood or a place.

Early life and naval career
Rimsky-Korsakov was the product of many influences. His father was a government official of liberal views, and his mother was well educated and could play the piano. His uncle was an admiral in the Russian navy, and his elder brother was a marine officer. From them Rimsky-Korsakov acquired his interest in music and 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 age 15 he began taking piano lessons and learned 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 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, Maryland; and Washington, D.C., at the height of the American Civil War. Since Russia was politically sympathetic toward the North, the sailors were cordially welcomed there. Subsequent ports of call were Brazil (where he was promoted to the rank of midshipman), Spain, Italy, France, England, and Norway. The ship returned to its home port of 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 (1888), Sadko (1898), and The Tale of Tsar Saltan (1900), and the lake in The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronia (1907).

On his return to St. Petersburg, Rimsky-Korsakov completed the symphony begun before his voyage, and it was performed with gratifying success in St. Petersburg on December 31, 1865, when the composer was only 21 years old. 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 name 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. The composers became known collectively as The Five, and their purpose was seen to be to assert the musical independence of Russia from the West. Of the five, Rimsky-Korsakov was the most learned and the most productive; he composed works in all genres, but he most excelled in the field of opera.

Portrait of Rimsky-Korsakov by Ilya Repin


Teacher, conductor, and editor
So high was Rimsky-Korsakov’s reputation that in 1871, when he was still a very young man, he was engaged to teach composition at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. In his autobiographical Chronicle of My Musical Life (1972, originally published in Russian, 1909) 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 Pyotr Ilyich 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 declared 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 Symphony No. 3. 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 and was chief conductor of the Russian symphony concerts between 1886 and 1900. In 1889 he led concerts of Russian music at the Paris World Exposition, and in the spring of 1907 he conducted in Paris two Russian historic concerts in connection with Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov


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 M.P. Belyayev 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 from modernists who venerated Mussorgsky’s originality; but Rimsky-Korsakov’s intervention vouchsafed the opera’s survival. 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 Aleksandr Glazunov) the posthumous works of Borodin.

Portrait of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov by Valentin Serov (1898)


A strict disciplinarian in artistic matters, Rimsky-Korsakov 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 his descriptive works. With two exceptions (Servilia [1902] and Mozart and Salieri [1898]), the subjects of Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas are taken from Russian or other Slavic fairy tales, literature, and history. These include Snow Maiden (1882), Sadko, The Tsar’s Bride (1899), The Tale of Tsar Saltan, The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronia, and Le Coq d’or (1909). Although these operas are part of the regular repertory in Russian opera houses, they are rarely heard abroad; only Le Coq d’or enjoys occasional production in western Europe and the United States.

Of the composer’s orchestral works, the best known are Capriccio espagnol (1887), the symphonic suite Scheherazade, and Russian Easter Festival (1888) overture. “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 a 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 privately with him for several years. His Practical Manual of Harmony (1884) and Fundamentals of Orchestration (posthumous, 1913) are still used as basic musical textbooks in Russia.

Nicolas Slonimsky
Richard Taruskin

Encyclopædia Britannica

Funeral Rimsky-Korsakov

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 1 887 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 colourful orchestration is as alive in this work as throughout his entire output.


Irina Vasileva
"Oriental Song"

"Tsar Saltan"


Alexander Skwortsow, violin; Bert Mooiman, piano

The Best of Korsakov
Sheherazade (Suíte Sinfônica), OP. 35
1. O Mar e o Navio de Simbad
Largo e Maestoso - Lento - Allegro Non Troppo - Tranquilo
2. A História do Príncipe Kalender
Lento - Andantino - Allegro Molto - Vivace Scherzando - Moderato Assai - Allegro Molto e Animato
3. O Jovem Príncipe e a Princesa
Andantino Quasi Allegretto
4. Festa em Bagdá (Naufrágio do Barco nas Rochas)
Allegro Molto - Lento - Vivo - Allegro Non Troppo e Maestoso - Lento - Tempo Come I
Capricho Espanhol (Suíte Para Orquestra), OP 34
5. Alvorada
6. Variações
7. Alvorada
8. Cena e Canto Cigano
9. Fandango Asturiano

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

The Best of Rimsky-Korsakov
0:00 The Sea and Sinbad's Ship
9:59 The Story of the Kalander Prince
22:52 The Young Prince and the Young Princess
33:31 Festival at Baghdad - The Sea - Shipwreck

Capriccio Espagnol:
46:36 Alborada - Vivo e strepitoso
47:47 Variazioni: Andante con moto
52:34 Alborada. Vivo e strepitoso (II)
53:45 Scena e Canto Gitano: Allegretto
55:20 Fandango Asturiano

1:01:22 The Flight of the Bumble Bee
1:02:45 Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op.36

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov - Sheherazade Op. 35
Sheherazade (Scheherazade; Russian: Шехерезада, Shekherezada in transliteration), Op. 35, is a symphonic suite composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1888. Based on The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, sometimes known as The Arabian Nights, this orchestral work combines two features common to Russian music and of Rimsky-Korsakov in particular: dazzling, colourful orchestration and an interest in the East, which figured greatly in the history of Imperial Russia, as well as orientalism in general. It is considered Rimsky-Korsakov's most popular work.

During the winter of 1887, as he worked to complete Alexander Borodin's unfinished opera Prince Igor, Rimsky-Korsakov decided to compose an orchestral piece based on pictures from The Arabian Nights as well as separate and unconnected episodes. After formulating musical sketches of his proposed work, he moved with his family to the Glinki-Mavriny dacha, in Nyezhgovitsy along the Cheryemenyetskoye Lake. During the summer there he finished Sheherazade and the Russian Easter Festival Overture. Notes in his autograph orchestral score show that the former was completed between June 4 and August 7, 1888. Sheherazade consisted of a symphonic suite of four related movements that form a unified theme. It was written to produce a sensation of fantasy narratives from the Orient.

The work is scored for two flutes and a piccolo (with 2nd flute doubling on 2nd piccolo for a few bars), two oboes (with 2nd doubling cor anglais), two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns in F, two trumpets in A and B-flat, three trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, triangle, tambourine, tam-tam, harp and strings.[14] The music premiered in Saint Petersburg on October 28, 1888 conducted by Rimsky-Korsakov.

Movement overview:

I. The Sea and Sinbad's Ship 0:14

This movement is composed of various melodies and contains a general A B C A1 B C1 form. Although each section is highly distinctive, aspects of melodic figures carry through and unite them into a movement. Although similar in form to the classical symphony, the movement is more similar to the variety of motives used in one of Rimsky-Korsakov's previous works Antar. Antar, however, used genuine Arabic melodies as opposed to Rimsky-Korsakov's own ideas of an oriental flavor.

II. The Kalendar Prince 10:40

This movement follows a type of ternary theme and variation and is described as a fantastic narrative. The variations only change by virtue of the accompaniment, highlighting the Rimsky-ness in the sense of simple musical lines allowing for greater appreciation of the orchestral clarity and brightness. Inside the general melodic line, a fast section highlights changes within both tonality and structure. of the fanfare motif, played by trombone and muted trumpet.

III. The Young Prince and The Young Princess 21:54

This movement is also ternary, and is considered the simplest movement in form and melodic content. The inner section is said to be based on the theme from Tamara, while the outer sections have song-like melodic content. The outer themes are related to the inner by tempo and common motif, and the whole movement is finished by a quick coda return to the inner motif, balancing it out nicely.

IV. Festival at Baghdad. The Sea. The Ship Breaks against a Cliff Surmounted by a Bronze Horseman. 32:30

This movement ties in aspects of all the proceeding movements as well as adding some new ideas Including but not limited to: an introduction of both the beginning of the movement and the Vivace section based on Sultan Shakhriar's theme, a repeat of the main Sheherazade violin theme, and a reiteration of the fanfare motif to portray the ship wreck. Coherence is maintained by the ordered repetition of melodies, and continues the impression of a symphonic suite, rather than separate movements. A final conflicting relationship of the subdominant minor Shakhriar theme to the tonic major cadence of the Scheherazade theme resolves in a fantastic, lyrical, and finally peaceful conclusion.

Conductor: Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra: New York Philharmonic Orchestra

Nikolaj Rimski-Korsakov - Piano Trio in C Minor
Nikolaj Rimski-Korsakov - The Invisible City of Kitezh
Prague Symphony Orchestra
Nikolaj Rimski-Korsakov - Symphony No.1 in E minor, Op. 1
Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra
Nikolaj Rimski-Korsakov - Symphony No.2 (Antar) in F sharp minor, Op. 9
Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra
Nikolaj Rimski-Korsakov - Symphony No.3 in C minor, Op. 32
Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra
Rimsky-Korsakov - Russian Easter Overture
Leonard Slatkin, St. Louis Orchestra
Nikolaj Rimski-Korsakov - The Golden Cockerel
Prague Symphony Orchestra
Nikolaj Rimski-Korsakov - The Snow Maiden
Prague Symphony Orchestra
Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov - The Tale of Tsar Saltan - March
Rimsky-Korsakov The Tsar's Bride (Ouverture)
Russian National Orchestra
Mikhail Pletnev, conductor
Rec. 1993
Marina Domashenko & Dmitri Hvorostovsky - Zachem ty (The Tsar's Bride)
Moscow, 2003
Rimsky-Korsakov: The Tsar's Bride
Konstantine Orbelian, cond.
Н.А.Римский-Корсаков - Царская невеста
Опера (Россия, ГТРК, 2007).
Режиссер-постановщик Иван Поповски (Македония). Музыкальный руководитель постановки Владимир Федосеев.

Режиссер телеверсии Андрей Торстенсен.
Ведущий оператор Владимир Кузаков.
Операторы Владимир Иванов, Владимир Деревянкин, Виктор Браздников, Александр Петровский, Александр Васильев, Михаил Самусев, Александр Аниканов.
Художники по свету Геннадий Алексеев, Сергей Макряшин.

Действующие лица и исполнители:
Любаша - Ольга Бородина,
Марфа Собакина - Ирина Дубровская,
Григорий Грязной, опричник - Владимир Стоянов (Болгария),
Василий Собакин, новгородский купец - Вячеслав Почапский,
Иван Лыков, боярин - Дмитрий Попов (Украина),
Елисей Бомелий, царский лекарь - Альгирдас Янутас (Литва),
Малюта Скуратов, опричник - Алексей Тихомиров,
Домна Сабурова, купеческая жена - Ольга Шалаева (Австрия),
Дуняша, подруга Марфы - Анна Викторова,
Петровна, ключница Собакиных - Ирина Никольская,
Сенная девка - Валентина Журавская.

The Tsar's Bride Rimsky-Korsakov
The Tsar's Bride - Rimsky-Korsakov
Brilliant filmic opera of Rimsky-Korsakov's Tsar's Bride Царская невеста (Tsarskaya Nevesta)
Yevgeni Svetlanov conductor and music director Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra and Chorus Larisa Avdeyeva/Natalya Rudnaya
P. Chekin/Vladimir Zeldin
Yevgeni Kibkalo/Otar Koberidze
Ye. Raikov/Viktor Nuzhny
Galina Oleynichenko/Raisa Nedashkovskaya
Aleksandr Vedernikov/Nikolai Timofeyev
Pyotr Gleb as Tsar Ivan
Gorgeous b&w photography, sumptuous costumes, beautiful actors lip-synching believably to the singing of great Bolshoi stars. Pyotr Gleb, in the silent role of a terrifying Tsar Ivan, steals each scene he's in. Filmic opera is a different genre from staged opera. More like Wagner's conception of Gesamtkunstwerk, it integrates opera, cinematography, acting, set design into a complete whole.
Anna Netrebko Sings The Death Scene From Rimsky-Korsakov's Snow Maiden.
"Великий царь! Спроси меня сто раз!" "Great Tsar! Ask Me A Hundred Times!" The great Anna Netrebko sings Snegurochka's Death Scene, where the Snow Maiden, having finally known love, must now melt, to the heart-breaking despair of her lover Mizgir, who throws himself into the lake. The Tsar comforts the grieving townspeople by telling them that Snow Maiden's sacrifice has broken the 15-year-long winter in which their country has been locked.
Opera Snow Maiden (Rimsky-Korsakov)
ФРАГМЕНТ (чуть больше часа) телевизионной трансляции оперы Снегурочка из Большого театра СССР (из архива Гостелерадиофонда).
Part of TV broadcast of the opera (about 1 hour video).

Опера «Снегурочка» Н.А. Римский-Корсаков (ГАБТ СССР, 1981 г.)

Дирижер -- Александр Лазарев
Режиссер-постановщик -- Борис Ровенских

Девушка-Снегурочка -- Ирина Журина
Весна-красна -- Ирина Архипова
Дед-Мороз -- Юрий Статник
Бобыль-Вакула -- Александр Архипов
Бобылиха -- Раиса Котова
Лель -- Галина Борисова
Купава -- Людмила Сергиенко
Мизгирь -- Игорь Морозов
Леший -- Олег Биктимиров

Елена Образцова Третья песня Леля из оперы "Снегурочка" Snow Maiden (Rimsky-Korsakov)
Запись с сольного концерта в Большом зале Московской консерватории. 1972 г. Музыка, слова - Н. Римский-Корсаков.
Capriccio Espagnol (Rimsky-Korsakov)
Rimsky-Korsakov's five movement suite entitled "Capriccio Espagnol" conducted by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Movements listed with timestamp for your convenience.

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

"Золотой петушок" N. Rimsky-Korsakov "The Golden Cockerel" 1962
Opera "The Golden Cockerel" N. Rimsky-Korsakov 1962
Tsar Dodon - Alexei Korolev, bass
Tsarevich Guidon - Yuri Elnikov, tenor
The prince Afron - A.Polyakov, baritone
Voyevoda Polkan - Leonid Ktitorov, bass
Amelfa housekeeper - Antonina Kleschiova, contralto
Stargazer - Gennady Pischaev, tenor altino
Queen of Shemakha - Klara Kadinskaya , soprano
The Golden Cockerel - N. Polyakova, soprano
Choir and orchestra All-Union RT Choirmaster - K.Ptitsa Cond. - A. Kovaliov and E. Akulov
Rimsky-Korsakov - Le Coq d'Or Suite - OSR / Ansermet
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

L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Ernest Ansermet
Studio recording, Geneva, X.1952

Rimsky-Korsakov - Hymn to the Sun, from The Golden Cockerel
Laura Claycomb sings the Queen of Shemakha's beautiful aria "Hymn to the Sun". From the critically acclaimed production of Rimsky-Korsakov's The Golden Cockerel / Le Coq d'Or (2014) by Bergen National Opera.

Directed by Emmy and Tony award winner Mark Lamos. Scenography & Costume by George Souglides. Choreography by Sean Curran.

With Andrew Shore in the role as Tzar Dodon and Laura Claycomb as the brilliant and seductive Queen of Shemakha.

The Golden Cockerel - Rimsky-Korsakov - 1 act
The Moscow State Opera and Ballet Theatre named after Natalia Sats
London Coliseum
Conductor Alevtina Ioffe
The Golden Cockerel - Rimsky-Korsakov - 2 act
The Moscow State Opera and Ballet Theatre named after Natalia Sats
London Coliseum
Conductor Alevtina Ioffe
Rimsky Korsakov - Golden Cockerel part 3
Ellada Chakoyan - Soprano
Qeen of Shemakha - Rimsky Korsakov "Golgen Cockerel" -
Yerevan Opera - Life performance, Conductor - Aram Katanian Act II Part 2-3
Qeen Shemacka and King Dodon, Second Dance of Qeen Shemakha
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