Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolai (1844-1908), was a celebrated Russian composer and music teacher. His symphonic suite Scheherazade (1888) ranks as one of the most popular orchestral works ever written.
Rimsky-Korsakov became famous for his imaginative blend of orchestral sounds. Examples include Capriccio Espagnol (1887) and the Russian Easter Overture (1888). Rimsky-Korsakov based many of his 15 operas on Russian history and folklore. Only one of them, Le Coq d’Or (The Golden Cockerel, completed in 1907), won international fame. But his operas The Snow Maiden (1882), Sadko (1898), and Tsar Saltan (1900) are popular in the Soviet Union. Two of his most famous pieces come from his operas “Song of India” from Sadko and “The Flight of the Bumblebee” from Tsar Saltan.
Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov was born in Tikhvin, near Novgorod. From 1856 to 1862,he attended the Naval Academy in St. Petersburg. In 1861, Rimsky-Korsakov met the composer Mily Balakirev and joined a group of young composers who later became known as The Five. This group, led by Balakirev, urged Russian composers to stress their national heritage in their music.
In 1862, Rimsky-Korsakov sailed on a three-year naval cruise, during which he visited the United States. He completed his first symphony aboard ship. After returning to St. Petersburg in 1865, he revised the symphony under Balakirev’s supervision. It had its first performance that same year.
In 1871, Rimsky-Korsakov left the navy and joined the faculty of the St. Petersburg Conservatory. He realized that he knew almost no music theory, and so he taught himself counterpoint, harmony, and music form. He became one of the world’s greatest music theorists. He taught several students who achieved fame as composers, including Sergei Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky.
Rimsky-Korsakov also edited and revised compositions that his friends Alexander Borodin and ModestMussorgsky had left unfinished when they died. Orchestras and opera companies usually perform Rimsky- Korsakov’s version of Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov. Borodin’s opera Prince Igor is usually performed in the version completed by Rimsky-Korsakov and the Russian composer Alexander Glazunov.