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Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolai
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Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov

(Born; Tikhvin, 18 March 1844; Died; Lyubensk, 21 June 1908). Russian composer. Apart from piano lessons, a love for the music of Glinka and a fascination with opera orchestras, he had little preparation for a musical career - he trained as a naval officer - until he met Balakirev (1861), who captivated him, encouraging his attempts at composition, performing his works and introducing him to Borodin, Dargomïzhsky, Cui and Musorgsky. He wrote songs, orchestral works and an opera (The Maid of Pskov, 1873) before becoming professor at the St Petersburg Conservatory (1871) and inspector of naval bands (1873-84), teaching himself harmony and counterpoint, conducting at Balakirev's Free School and collecting folksongs.

His next opera, May Night (1880), engaged his full creative powers with its blend of the fantastic and the comic (the realm in which he was to score most of his greatest successes), while Snow Maiden (1882) evoked a deeper world of nature-mysticism. Official duties at the imperial chapel (1883-91), work on the deceased Musorgsky's and Borodin's MSS and advising for the publisher Belyayev interrupted composition, but he did produce the three colourful orchestral works by which he is best known, Sheherazade, the Spanish Capriccio and the Russian Easter Festival overture, during1887-8, after which he devoted himself to opera; of the 12 dramatic works from Mlada (1892) to The Golden Cockerel (1909), Kitezh (1907) stands out for its mystical and psychological depths.

Rimsky-Korsakov's operas far out-weigh in importance his other compositions, for both their brilliant scoring and fine vocal writing. If they lack dramatic power and strong characterization, they nevertheless set delightful fantastic puppets in the context of musico-scenic fairy tales, using a dual musical language to delineate 'real' from 'unreal'. He transmitted his pellucid style to two generations of Russian composers, from Lyndov and Glazanov to Stravinsky and Prokofiev, all of whom were his pupils.

Operas The Maid of Pskov (1873); May Night (1880) Snow Maiden (1882); Mlada, opera-ballet (1892); Christmas Eve (1895); Sadko (1898); Mozart and Salieri (1898); The Tsar's Bride (1899); Tsar Saltan (1900); Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh (1907), The Golden Cockerel (1909)

Choral works folksong settings, traditional chants, cantatas

Orchestral and chamber works Sym. no.1 (1884); Sym. no.2 'Antar' (1897); Sym. no.3, C (1886); Overture on Russian Themes (1880); Fantasia on Two Russian Themes, vn/orch (1887); Spanish Capriccio (1887); Sheherazade suite (1888) Russian Easter Festival, ov. (1888); Sadko (1892); 3 str qts, Str Sextet (1876); Trio (1897); wind pieces

Other Circa 20 pf works, incl. variations, fugues, character-pieces, dance movts; 23 sets of songs; 2 folksong collections; orchestrations, revisions, completions of works by Dargomïzhsky, Musorgsky, Borodin, Glinka

(c)Groves Dictionaries, MacMillan Publishers Limited, UK

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