Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
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Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov ' onMouseout='HidePop("12535")' href="/topics/Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates">old style dates
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

 in the 19th century, and information sources used in the article sometimes report dates as old style rather than new style.
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Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov ' onMouseout='HidePop("12535")' href="/topics/Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates">old style dates
Old Style and New Style dates
Old Style and New Style are used in English language historical studies either to indicate that the start of the Julian year has been adjusted to start on 1 January even though documents written at the time use a different start of year ; or to indicate that a date conforms to the Julian...

 in the 19th century, and information sources used in the article sometimes report dates as old style rather than new style. Dates in the article are taken verbatim from the source and are in the same style as the source from which they come.) was a Russian composer, and a member of the group of composers known as The Five
The Five
The Five, also known as The Mighty Handful or The Mighty Coterie , refers to a circle of composers who met in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in the years 1856–1870: Mily Balakirev , César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin...

.The Five
The Five
The Five, also known as The Mighty Handful or The Mighty Coterie , refers to a circle of composers who met in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in the years 1856–1870: Mily Balakirev , César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin...

, also known as The Mighty Handful or The Mighty Coterie, refers to a circle of composers who met in Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

, Russia, in the years 1856–1870: Mily Balakirev
Mily Balakirev
Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev ,Russia was still using old style dates in the 19th century, and information sources used in the article sometimes report dates as old style rather than new style. Dates in the article are taken verbatim from the source and therefore are in the same style as the source...

 (the leader), César Cui
César Cui
César Antonovich Cui was a Russian of French and Lithuanian descent. His profession was as an army officer and a teacher of fortifications; his avocational life has particular significance in the history of music, in that he was a composer and music critic; in this sideline he is known as a...

, Modest Mussorgsky
Modest Mussorgsky
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky was a Russian composer, one of the group known as 'The Five'. He was an innovator of Russian music in the romantic period...

, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Alexander Borodin
Alexander Borodin
Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin was a Russian Romantic composer and chemist of Georgian–Russian parentage. He was a member of the group of composers called The Five , who were dedicated to producing a specifically Russian kind of art music...

.
He was a master of orchestration
Orchestration
Orchestration is the study or practice of writing music for an orchestra or of adapting for orchestra music composed for another medium...

. His best-known orchestral compositions—Capriccio Espagnol
Capriccio espagnol
Capriccio espagnol, Op. 34, is the common Western title for an orchestral work based on Spanish folk melodies and written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1887. Rimsky-Korsakov originally intended to write the work for a solo violin with orchestra, but later decided that a purely orchestral work...

, the Russian Easter Festival Overture
Russian Easter Festival Overture
Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op. 36 is a concert overture written by the Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov between August 1887 and April 1888, and dedicated to the memories of Modest Mussorgsky and Alexander Borodin, two members of the legendary "Mighty Handful." It is subtitled...

, and the symphonic suite Scheherazade
Scheherazade (Rimsky-Korsakov)
Sheherazade , Op. 35, is a symphonic suite composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1888. Based on 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...

—are considered staples of the classical music repertoire, along with suites and excerpts from some of his 15 operas. Scheherazade is an example of his frequent use of fairy tale
Fairy tale
A fairy tale is a type of short story that typically features such folkloric characters, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments. However, only a small number of the stories refer to fairies...

 and folk subjects.

Rimsky-Korsakov believed, as did fellow composer Mily Balakirev
Mily Balakirev
Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev ,Russia was still using old style dates in the 19th century, and information sources used in the article sometimes report dates as old style rather than new style. Dates in the article are taken verbatim from the source and therefore are in the same style as the source...

 and critic Vladimir Stasov, in developing a nationalistic style of classical music. This style employed Russian folk song and lore along with exotic harmonic, melodic and rhythmic elements in a practice known as musical orientalism
Orientalism
Orientalism is a term used for the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists, as well as having other meanings...

, and eschewed traditional Western compositional methods. However, Rimsky-Korsakov appreciated Western musical techniques after he became a professor of musical composition, harmony
Harmony
In music, harmony is the use of simultaneous pitches , or chords. The study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them. Harmony is often said to refer to the "vertical" aspect of music, as distinguished from melodic...

 and orchestration at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory
Saint Petersburg Conservatory
The N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory is a music school in Saint Petersburg. In 2004, the conservatory had around 275 faculty members and 1,400 students.-History:...

 in 1871. He undertook a rigorous three-year program of self-education and became a master of Western methods, incorporating them alongside the influences of Mikhail Glinka
Mikhail Glinka
Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka , was the first Russian composer to gain wide recognition within his own country, and is often regarded as the father of Russian classical music...

 and fellow members of The Five. His techniques of composition and orchestration were further enriched by his exposure to the works of Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

.

For much of his life, Rimsky-Korsakov combined his composition and teaching with a career in the Russian military—at first as an officer in the Imperial Russian Navy
Imperial Russian Navy
The Imperial Russian Navy refers to the Tsarist fleets prior to the February Revolution.-First Romanovs:Under Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich, construction of the first three-masted ship, actually built within Russia, was completed in 1636. It was built in Balakhna by Danish shipbuilders from Holstein...

, then as the civilian Inspector of Naval Bands. He wrote that he developed a passion for the ocean in childhood from reading books and hearing of his older brother's exploits in the navy. This love of the sea might have influenced him to write two of his best-known orchestral works, the musical tableau Sadko
Sadko (musical tableau)
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov wrote his "musical tableau" Sadko, Op. 5, in 1867 but revised the work in 1869 and 1892. It has sometimes been called the first symphonic poem written in Russia...

(not his later opera of the same name) and Scheherazade. Through his service as Inspector of Naval Bands, Rimsky-Korsakov expanded his knowledge of woodwind and brass playing, which enhanced his abilities in orchestration. He passed this knowledge to his students, and also posthumously through a textbook on orchestration that was completed by his son-in-law, Maximilian Steinberg
Maximilian Steinberg
Maximilian Osseyevich Steinberg was a Russian composer of classical music born in what is now Lithuania.-Life:...

.

Rimsky-Korsakov left a considerable body of original Russian nationalist compositions. He prepared works by The Five for performance, which brought them into the active classical repertoire (although there is controversy over his editing of the works of Modest Mussorgsky
Modest Mussorgsky
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky was a Russian composer, one of the group known as 'The Five'. He was an innovator of Russian music in the romantic period...

), and shaped a generation of younger composers and musicians during his decades as an educator. Rimsky-Korsakov is therefore considered "the main architect" of what the classical music public considers the Russian style of composition. His influence on younger composers was especially important. While Rimsky-Korsakov's style was based on those of Glinka, Balakirev, Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts . Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works; as a...

 and Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt ; ), was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher.Liszt became renowned in Europe during the nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age...

, he "transmitted this style directly to two generations of Russian composers" and influenced non-Russian composers including Maurice Ravel
Maurice Ravel
Joseph-Maurice Ravel was a French composer known especially for his melodies, orchestral and instrumental textures and effects...

, Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy
Claude-Achille Debussy was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music, though he himself intensely disliked the term when applied to his compositions...

, Paul Dukas
Paul Dukas
Paul Abraham Dukas was a French composer, critic, scholar and teacher. A studious man, of retiring personality, he was intensely self-critical, and he abandoned and destroyed many of his compositions...

 and Ottorino Respighi
Ottorino Respighi
Ottorino Respighi was an Italian composer, musicologist and conductor. He is best known for his orchestral "Roman trilogy": Fountains of Rome ; Pines of Rome ; and Roman Festivals...

.

Early years

Rimsky-Korsakov was born in Tikhvin
Tikhvin
Tikhvin is a town and the administrative center of Tikhvinsky District of Leningrad Oblast, Russia, located on both banks of the Tikhvinka River in the east of the oblast, east of St. Petersburg. Tikhvin is also an industrial and cultural center of the district, as well as its transportation...

, 200 kilometres (124.3 mi) east of Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

, into an aristocratic family with a long line of military and naval service—his older brother Voin
Voin Rimsky-Korsakov
Voin Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov was a Russian navigator, hydrographer and geographer. He was an elder brother of composer and conductor Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov....

, 22 years his senior, became a well-known navigator and explorer.

Rimsky-Korsakov later recalled that his mother played the piano a little, and his father could play a few songs on the piano by ear. It is said that Rimsky-Korsakov inherited his mother's tendency to play too slowly. Beginning at six, he took piano lessons from various local teachers and showed a talent for aural skills, but he showed a lack of interest, playing, as he later wrote, "badly, carelessly, ... poor at keeping time".

Although he started composing by age 10, Rimsky-Korsakov preferred literature over music. He later wrote that from his reading, and tales of his brother's exploits, he developed a poetic love for the sea "without ever having seen it". This love, and prompting from Voin, encouraged the 12-year-old to join the Imperial Russian Navy
Imperial Russian Navy
The Imperial Russian Navy refers to the Tsarist fleets prior to the February Revolution.-First Romanovs:Under Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich, construction of the first three-masted ship, actually built within Russia, was completed in 1636. It was built in Balakhna by Danish shipbuilders from Holstein...

. He studied at the School for Mathematical and Navigational Sciences in Saint Petersburg and, at 18, took his final examination in April 1862.

While at school, Rimsky-Korsakov took piano lessons from a man named Ulikh. These lessons were sanctioned by Voin, who now served as director of the school, because they would help the youth to develop social skills and overcome his shyness. Rimsky-Korsakov wrote that while "indifferent" to lessons, he developed a love for music, fostered by visits to the opera, and, later, orchestral concerts. Ulikh perceived that he had serious musical talent, and recommended another teacher, Feodor A. Kanille (Théodore Canillé). Beginning in the autumn of 1859, Rimsky-Korsakov took lessons in piano and composition from Kanille, whom he later credited as the inspiration for devoting his life to musical composition. Through Kanille, he was exposed to a great deal of new music, including Mikhail Glinka
Mikhail Glinka
Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka , was the first Russian composer to gain wide recognition within his own country, and is often regarded as the father of Russian classical music...

 and Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann, sometimes known as Robert Alexander Schumann, was a German composer, aesthete and influential music critic. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most representative composers of the Romantic era....

. Despite Rimsky-Korsakov's now liking his music lessons, Voin cancelled them when Rimsky-Korsakov was 17, as he felt they no longer served a practical need. Kanille told Rimsky-Korsakov to continue coming to him every Sunday, not for formal lessons but to play duets and discuss music. In November 1861, Kanille introduced the 18-year-old Rimsky-Korsakov to Mily Balakirev
Mily Balakirev
Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev ,Russia was still using old style dates in the 19th century, and information sources used in the article sometimes report dates as old style rather than new style. Dates in the article are taken verbatim from the source and therefore are in the same style as the source...

. Balakirev in turn introduced him to César Cui
César Cui
César Antonovich Cui was a Russian of French and Lithuanian descent. His profession was as an army officer and a teacher of fortifications; his avocational life has particular significance in the history of music, in that he was a composer and music critic; in this sideline he is known as a...

, and Modest Mussorgsky
Modest Mussorgsky
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky was a Russian composer, one of the group known as 'The Five'. He was an innovator of Russian music in the romantic period...

; all three of these men were already known as composers, despite only being in their 20s. Rimsky-Korsakov later wrote, "With what delight I listened to real business discussions [Rimsky-Korsakov's emphasis] of instrumentation, part writing, etc! And besides, how much talking there was about current musical matters! All at once I had been plunged into a new world, unknown to me, formerly only heard of in the society of my dilettante friends. That was truly a strong impression".
Balakirev encouraged Rimsky-Korsakov to compose and taught him the rudiments when he was not at sea. Balakirev also prompted him to enrich himself in history, literature and criticism. When he showed Balakirev the beginning of a symphony in E-flat minor
Symphony No. 1 (Rimsky-Korsakov)
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov wrote his Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 1 , between 1861 and 1865 under the guidance of Mily Balakirev. Balakirev also premiered the work at a concert of the Free Music School in December 1865...

 that he had written, Balakirev insisted he continue working on it despite his lack of formal musical training. By the time Rimsky-Korsakov sailed on a two-year-and-eight-month cruise aboard the clipper Almaz in late 1862, he had completed and orchestrated three movements of the symphony.This is not the first symphony by a Russian: Anton Rubinstein
Anton Rubinstein
Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein was a Russian-Jewish pianist, composer and conductor. As a pianist he was regarded as a rival of Franz Liszt, and he ranks amongst the great keyboard virtuosos...

 composed his first symphony in 1850 (Figes, 391).
He composed the slow movement during a stop in England, and mailed the score to Balakirev before going back to sea. At first, his work on the symphony kept Rimsky-Korsakov occupied during his cruise. He purchased scores at every port of call, along with a piano upon which to play them, and filled his idle hours studying Berlioz's treatise on orchestration
Treatise on Instrumentation
Grand traité d’instrumentation et d’orchestration modernes, abbreviated in English as the Treatise on Instrumentation is a technical study of Western musical instruments, written by Hector Berlioz...

. He found time to read the works of Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

, William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, Friedrich Schiller
Friedrich Schiller
Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller was a German poet, philosopher, historian, and playwright. During the last seventeen years of his life , Schiller struck up a productive, if complicated, friendship with already famous and influential Johann Wolfgang von Goethe...

 and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

, and he saw London, Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls
The Niagara Falls, located on the Niagara River draining Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, is the collective name for the Horseshoe Falls and the adjacent American Falls along with the comparatively small Bridal Veil Falls, which combined form the highest flow rate of any waterfalls in the world and has...

, and Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro , commonly referred to simply as Rio, is the capital city of the State of Rio de Janeiro, the second largest city of Brazil, and the third largest metropolitan area and agglomeration in South America, boasting approximately 6.3 million people within the city proper, making it the 6th...

 during his stops in port. Eventually, the lack of outside musical stimuli dulled the young midshipman's hunger to learn, and he wrote to Balakirev that after two years at sea he had neglected his musical lessons for months. "Thoughts of becoming a musician and composer gradually left me altogether", he later recalled; "distant lands began to allure me, somehow, although, properly speaking, naval service never pleased me much and hardly suited my character at all."

Mentored by Balakirev; time with The Five

Once back in Saint Petersburg in May 1865, Rimsky-Korsakov's onshore duties consisted of a couple of hours of clerical duty each day, but he recalled that his desire to compose "had been stifled ... I did not concern myself with music at all." He wrote that contact with Balakirev in September 1865 encouraged him "to get accustomed to music and later to plunge into it". At Balakirev's suggestion, he wrote a trio to the scherzo of the E-flat minor symphony, which it had lacked up to that point, and reorchestrated the entire symphony. Its first performance came in December of that year under Balakirev's direction in Saint Petersburg. A second performance followed in March 1866 under the direction of Konstantin Lyadov (father of composer Anatoly Lyadov).

Correspondence between Rimsky-Korsakov and Balakirev clearly shows that some ideas for the symphony originated with Balakirev. Balakirev seldom stopped at merely correcting a piece of music, and would often recompose it at the piano. Rimsky-Korsakov recalled,

A pupil like myself had to submit to Balakirev a proposed composition in its embryo, say, even the first four or eight bars. Balakirev would immediately make corrections, indicating how to recast such an embryo; he would criticize it, would praise and extol the first two bars, but would censure the next two, ridicule them, and try hard to make the author disgusted with them. Vivacity of composition and fertility were not at all in favor, frequent recasting was demanded, and the composition was extended over a long space of time under the cold control of self-criticism.

Rimsky-Korsakov recalled that "Balakirev had no difficulty in getting along with me. At his suggestion I most readily rewrote the symphonic movements composed by me and brought them to completion with the help of his advice and improvisations". Though Rimsky-Korsakov later found Balakirev's influence stifling, and broke free from it, this did not stop him in his memoirs from extolling the older composer's talents as a critic and improviser. Under Balakirev's mentoring, Rimsky-Korsakov turned to other compositions. He began a symphony in B minor, but felt it too closely followed Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
Symphony No. 9 (Beethoven)
The Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, is the final complete symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven. Completed in 1824, the symphony is one of the best known works of the Western classical repertoire, and has been adapted for use as the European Anthem...

 and abandoned it. He completed an Overture on Three Russian Themes, based on Balakirev's folksong overtures, as well as a Fantasia on Serbian Themes
Fantasy on Serbian Themes
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov wrote his Fantasia on Serbian Themes, Op. 6, in 1867. Mily Balakirev conducted the first performed of this piece in May of that year. It is also known as the Serbian Fantasy....

 that was performed at a concert given for the delegates of the Slavonic Congress in 1867. In his review of this concert, nationalist critic Vladimir Stasov coined the phrase Moguchaya kuchka for the Balakirev circle (Moguchaya kuchka is usually translated as "The Mighty Handful" or "The Five"). Rimsky-Korsakov also composed the initial versions of Sadko and Antar
Antar (Rimsky-Korsakov)
Antar is a composition for symphony orchestra in four movements by the Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. He wrote the piece in 1868 but revised the work in 1875 and 1891. He initially called this work his Second Symphony. He later reconsidered and called it a symphonic suite...

, which cemented his reputation as a writer of orchestral works.

Rimsky-Korsakov socialized and discussed music with the other members of The Five; they critiqued one another's works in progress and collaborated on new pieces. He became friends with Alexander Borodin
Alexander Borodin
Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin was a Russian Romantic composer and chemist of Georgian–Russian parentage. He was a member of the group of composers called The Five , who were dedicated to producing a specifically Russian kind of art music...

, whose music "astonished" him. He spent an increasing amount of time with Mussorgsky. Balakirev and Mussorgsky played piano four-hand music, Mussorgsky would sing, and they frequently discussed other composers' works, with preferred tastes running "toward Glinka, Schumann and Beethoven's late quartets". Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

 was not thought of highly, Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

 and Haydn
Joseph Haydn
Franz Joseph Haydn , known as Joseph Haydn , was an Austrian composer, one of the most prolific and prominent composers of the Classical period. He is often called the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" because of his important contributions to these forms...

 "were considered out of date and naïve", and J.S. Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity...

 merely mathematical and unfeeling. Berlioz "was highly esteemed", Liszt "crippled and perverted from a musical point of view ... even a caricature", and Wagner discussed little. Rimsky-Korsakov "listened to these opinions with avidity and absorbed the tastes of Balakirev, Cui and Mussorgsky without reasoning or examination". Often, the musical works in question "were played before me only in fragments, and I had no idea of the whole work". This, he wrote, did not stop him from accepting these judgments at face value and repeating them "as if I were thoroughly convinced of their truth".

Rimsky-Korsakov became especially appreciated within The Five, and among those who visited the circle, for his talents as an orchestrator. He was asked by Balakirev to orchestrate a Schubert
Franz Schubert
Franz Peter Schubert was an Austrian composer.Although he died at an early age, Schubert was tremendously prolific. He wrote some 600 Lieder, nine symphonies , liturgical music, operas, some incidental music, and a large body of chamber and solo piano music...

 march for a concert in May 1868, by Cui to orchestrate the opening chorus of his opera William Ratcliff
William Ratcliff (Cui)
William Ratcliff is an opera in three acts, composed by César Cui during 1861-1868; it was premiered on 14 February 1869 at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg under the conductorship of Eduard Nápravník...

and by Alexander Dargomyzhsky
Alexander Dargomyzhsky
Alexander Sergeyevich Dargomyzhsky was a 19th century Russian composer. He bridged the gap in Russian opera composition between Mikhail Glinka and the later generation of The Five and Tchaikovsky....

, whose works were greatly appreciated by The Five and who was close to death, to orchestrate his opera The Stone Guest
The Stone Guest
The Stone Guest is a poetic drama by Alexander Pushkin based on the Spanish legend of Don Juan. The Stone Guest was written in 1830 as part of his four short plays known as The Little Tragedies...

.

In the fall of 1871, Rimsky-Korsakov moved into Voin's former apartment, and invited Mussorgsky to be his roommate. The working arrangement they agreed upon was that Mussorgsky used the piano in the mornings while Rimsky-Korsakov worked on copying or orchestration. When Mussorgsky left for his civil service job at noon, Rimsky-Korsakov then used the piano. Time in the evenings was allotted by mutual agreement. "That autumn and winter the two of us accomplished a good deal", Rimsky-Korsakov wrote, "with constant exchange of ideas and plans. Mussorgsky composed and orchestrated the Polish act of Boris Godunov
Boris Godunov (opera)
Boris Godunov is an opera by Modest Mussorgsky . The work was composed between 1868 and 1873 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It is Mussorgsky's only completed opera and is considered his masterpiece. Its subjects are the Russian ruler Boris Godunov, who reigned as Tsar during the Time of Troubles,...

and the folk scene 'Near Kromy.' I orchestrated and finished my Maid of Pskov
The Maid of Pskov
The Maid of Pskov , is an opera in three acts and six scenes by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The libretto was written by the composer, and is based on the drama of the same name by Lev Mei. The story concerns the Tsar Ivan the Terrible and his efforts to subject the cities of Pskov and Novgorod to his...

."

Professorship, marriage, inspector of bands

In 1871, the 27-year-old Rimsky-Korsakov became Professor of Practical Composition and Instrumentation (orchestration) at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, as well as leader of the Orchestra Class. He retained his position in active naval service, and taught his classes in uniform (military officers in Russia were required to wear their uniforms every day, as they were considered to be always on duty).
Rimsky-Korsakov explained in his memoirs that Mikhaíl Azanchevsky had taken over that year as director of the Conservatory, and wanting new blood to freshen up teaching in those subjects, had offered to pay generously for Rimsky-Korsakov's services. Biographer Mikhail Zetlin suggests that Azanchevsky's motives might have been twofold. First, Rimsky-Korsakov was the member of the Five least criticized by its opponents, and inviting him to teach at the Conservatory may have been considered a safe way to show that all serious musicians were welcome there. Second, the offer may have been calculated to expose him to an academic climate in which he would write in a more conservative, Western-based style. Balakirev had opposed academic training in music with tremendous vigor, but encouraged him to accept the post to convince others to join the nationalist musical cause.

Rimsky-Korsakov's reputation at this time was as a master of orchestration, based on Sadko and Antar. However, he had written these works mainly by intuition. His knowledge of musical theory was elemental; he had never written any counterpoint, could not harmonize a simple chorale, nor knew the names or intervals of musical chords. He had never conducted an orchestra, and had been discouraged from doing so by the navy, which did not approve of his appearing on the podium in uniform. Aware of his technical shortcomings, Rimsky-Korsakov consulted Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian: Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский ; often "Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky" in English. His names are also transliterated "Piotr" or "Petr"; "Ilitsch", "Il'ich" or "Illyich"; and "Tschaikowski", "Tschaikowsky", "Chajkovskij"...

, with whom he and the others in The Five had been in occasional contact. Tchaikovsky, unlike The Five, had received academic training in composition at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, and was serving as Professor of Music Theory
Music theory
Music theory is the study of how music works. It examines the language and notation of music. It seeks to identify patterns and structures in composers' techniques across or within genres, styles, or historical periods...

 at the Moscow Conservatory
Moscow Conservatory
The Moscow Conservatory is a higher musical education institution in Moscow, and the second oldest conservatory in Russia after St. Petersburg Conservatory. Along with the St...

. Tchaikovsky advised him to study.

Rimsky-Korsakov wrote that while teaching at the Conservatory he soon became "possibly its very best pupil [Rimsky-Korsakov's emphasis], judging by the quantity and value of the information it gave me!" To prepare himself, and to stay at least one step ahead of his students, he took a three-year sabbatical from composing original works, and assiduously studied at home while he lectured at the Conservatory. He taught himself from textbooks, and followed a strict regimen of composing contrapuntal
Counterpoint
In music, counterpoint is the relationship between two or more voices that are independent in contour and rhythm and are harmonically interdependent . It has been most commonly identified in classical music, developing strongly during the Renaissance and in much of the common practice period,...

 exercises, fugue
Fugue
In music, a fugue is a compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject that is introduced at the beginning in imitation and recurs frequently in the course of the composition....

s, chorale
Chorale
A chorale was originally a hymn sung by a Christian congregation. In certain modern usage, this term may also include classical settings of such hymns and works of a similar character....

s and a cappella
A cappella
A cappella music is specifically solo or group singing without instrumental sound, or a piece intended to be performed in this way. It is the opposite of cantata, which is accompanied singing. A cappella was originally intended to differentiate between Renaissance polyphony and Baroque concertato...

choruses.

Rimsky-Korsakov eventually became an excellent teacher and a fervent believer in academic training. He revised everything he had composed prior to 1874, even acclaimed works such as Sadko and Antar, in a search for perfection that would remain with him throughout the rest of his life. Assigned to rehearse the Orchestra Class, he mastered the art of conducting. Dealing with orchestral textures as a conductor, and making suitable arrangements of musical works for the Orchestra Class, led to an increased interest in the art of orchestration, an area into which he would further indulge his studies as Inspector of Navy Bands. The score of his Third Symphony, written just after he had completed his three-year program of self-improvement, reflects his hands-on experience with the orchestra.

Professorship brought Rimsky-Korsakov financial security, which encouraged him to settle down and to start a family. In December 1871 he proposed to Nadezhda Purgold
Nadezhda Rimskaya-Korsakova
Nadezhda Nikolayevna Rimskaya-Korsakova , 1848May 24, 1919) was a Russian pianist and composer as well as the wife of composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. She was also the mother of Russian musicologist Andrey Rimsky-Korsakov.-Early years:...

, with whom he had developed a close relationship over weekly gatherings of The Five at the Purgold household. They married in July 1872, with Mussorgsky serving as best man. The Rimsky-Korsakovs had seven children. One of their sons, Andrei
Andrey Rimsky-Korsakov
Andrey Nikolayevich Rimsky-Korsakov was a Russian musicologist and son of the great Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Though growing up in a musical family he was encouraged in musical pursuits, playing cello in the family string quartet, he did not pursue music as a career until late in...

, became a musicologist, married the composer Yuliya Veysberg and wrote a multi-volume study of his father's life and work.

Nadezhda became a musical as well as domestic partner with her husband, much as Clara Schumann
Clara Schumann
Clara Schumann was a German musician and composer, considered one of the most distinguished pianists of the Romantic era...

 had been with her own husband Robert
Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann, sometimes known as Robert Alexander Schumann, was a German composer, aesthete and influential music critic. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most representative composers of the Romantic era....

. She was beautiful, capable, strong-willed, and far better trained musically than her husband at the time they married—she had attended the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in the mid-1860s, studying piano with Anton Gerke (one of whose private students was Mussorgsky) and music theory with Nikolai Zaremba
Nikolai Zaremba
Nikolai Ivanovich Zaremba was a Russian musical theorist and composer.Zaremba was born in the province of Vitebsk in 1821. He was one of the original professors at the St. Petersburg Conservatory when it was founded in 1862. In 1867, he succeeded Anton Rubinstein as the director of the...

, who also taught Tchaikovsky. Nadezhda proved a fine and most demanding critic of her husband's work; her influence over him in musical matters was strong enough for Balakirev and Stasov to wonder whether she was leading him astray from their musical preferences. Musicologist Lyle Neff wrote that while Nadezhda gave up her own compositional career when she married Rimsky-Korsakov, she "had a considerable influence on the creation of [Rimsky-Korsakov's] first three operas. She travelled with her husband, attended rehearsals and arranged compositions by him and others" for piano four hands, which she played with her husband. "Her last years were dedicated to issuing her husband's posthumous literary and musical legacy, maintaining standards for performance of his works ... and preparing material for a museum in his name."
In the spring of 1873, the navy created the post of Inspector of Naval Bands and appointed Rimsky-Korsakov. While this kept him on the navy payroll and listed on the roster of the Chancellery of the Navy Department, it allowed him to resign his commission. As Inspector, he visited naval bands throughout Russia, supervised the bandmasters and their appointments, reviewed the bands' repertoire, and inspected the quality of their instruments. He wrote a study program for a complement of music students who held navy fellowships at the Conservatory, and acted as an intermediary between the Conservatory and the navy. The post of Band Inspector came with a promotion to Collegiate Assessor, a civilian rank. "I parted with delight with both my military status and my officer's uniform", he later wrote. "Henceforth I was a musician officially and incontestably."

Rimsky-Korsakov applied himself with zeal to his duties, and indulged in a long-standing desire to familiarize himself with the construction and playing technique of orchestral instruments. These studies prompted him to write a textbook on orchestration. He used the privileges of rank to exercise and expand upon his knowledge. He discussed arrangements of musical works for military band with bandmasters, encouraged and reviewed their efforts, held concerts at which he could hear these pieces, and orchestrated original works, and works by other composers, for military bands.

In March 1884, an Imperial Order abolished the navy office of Inspector of Bands, and Rimsky-Korsakov was relieved of his duties. He worked under Balakirev in the Court Chapel
Saint Petersburg Court Capella
The Saint Petersburg Court Capella is the oldest active Russian professional musical institution. Based in the city of Saint Petersburg, it was founded in 1479 by an order of Ivan III of Russia as the State Choir of Singing Dyaks. The insitution currently consists of a choir, an orchestra, and has...

 as a deputy until 1894, which allowed him to study Russian Orthodox church music. He also taught classes at the Chapel, and wrote his textbook on harmony for use there and at the Conservatory.

Backlash and May Night

Rimsky-Korsakov's studies and his change in attitude regarding music education brought him the scorn of his fellow nationalists, who thought he was throwing away his Russian heritage to compose fugue
Fugue
In music, a fugue is a compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject that is introduced at the beginning in imitation and recurs frequently in the course of the composition....

s and sonata
Sonata
Sonata , in music, literally means a piece played as opposed to a cantata , a piece sung. The term, being vague, naturally evolved through the history of music, designating a variety of forms prior to the Classical era...

s. After he strove "to crowd in as much counterpoint as possible" into his Third Symphony, he wrote chamber works adhering strictly to classical models, including a string sextet, a string quartet in F minor and a quintet for flute, clarinet, horn, bassoon and piano. About the quartet and the symphony, Tchaikovsky wrote to his patroness, Nadezhda von Meck
Nadezhda von Meck
Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck was a Russian businesswoman, who is best known today for her artistic relationship with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. She supported him financially for 13 years, enabling him to devote himself full-time to composition, but she stipulated that they were never to meet. ...

, that they "were filled with a host of clever things but ... [were] imbued with a dryly pedantic character". Borodin commented that when he heard the symphony, he kept "feeling that this is the work of a German Herr Professor who has put on his glasses and is about to write Eine grosse Symphonie in C".

According to Rimsky-Korsakov, the other members of The Five showed little enthusiasm for the symphony, and less still for the quartet. Nor was his public debut as a conductor, at an 1874 charity concert where he led the orchestra in the new symphony, considered favorably by his compatriots. He later wrote that "they began, indeed, to look down upon me as one on the downward path". Worse still to Rimsky-Korsakov was the faint praise given by Anton Rubinstein
Anton Rubinstein
Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein was a Russian-Jewish pianist, composer and conductor. As a pianist he was regarded as a rival of Franz Liszt, and he ranks amongst the great keyboard virtuosos...

, a composer opposed to the nationalists' music and philosophy. Rimsky-Korsakov wrote that after Rubinstein heard the quartet, he commented that now Rimsky-Korsakov "might amount to something" as a composer. He wrote that Tchaikovsky continued to support him morally, telling him that he fully applauded what Rimsky-Korsakov was doing and admired both his artistic modesty and his strength of character. Privately, Tchaikovsky confided to Nadezhda von Meck, "Apparently [Rimsky-Korsakov] is now passing through this crisis, and how it will end will be difficult to predict. Either a great master will come out of him, or he will finally become bogged down in contrapuntal tricks".

Two projects helped Rimsky-Korsakov focus on less academic music-making. The first was the creation of two folk song collections in 1874. Rimsky-Korsakov transcribed 40 Russian songs for voice and piano from performances by folk singer Tvorty Filippov, who approached him at Balakirev's suggestion. This collection was followed by a second containing 100 songs, supplied by friends and servants, or taken from rare and out-of-print collections. Rimsky-Korsakov later credited this work as a great influence on him as a composer; it also supplied a vast amount of musical material from which he could draw for future projects, either by direct quotation or as models for composing fakeloric
Fakelore
Fakelore or Pseudo-folklore is inauthentic, manufactured folklore presented as if it were genuinely traditional. The term can refer to new stories or songs made up, or to folklore that is reworked and modified for modern tastes...

 passages. The second project was the editing of orchestral scores by pioneer Russian composer Mikhail Glinka (1804–1857) in collaboration with Balakirev and Anatoly Lyadov. Glinka's sister, Lyudmila Ivanovna Shestavoka, wanted to preserve her brother's musical legacy in print, and paid the costs of the project from her own pocket. No similar project had been attempted before in Russian music, and guidelines for scholarly musical editing had to be established and agreed. While Balakirev favored making changes in Glinka's music to "correct" what he saw as compositional flaws, Rimsky-Korsakov favored a less intrusive approach. Eventually, Rimsky-Korsakov prevailed. "Work on Glinka's scores was an unexpected schooling for me", he later wrote. "Even before this I had known and worshipped his operas; but as editor of the scores in print I had to go through Glinka's style and instrumentation to their last little note ... And this was a beneficent discipline for me, leading me as it did to the path of modern music, after my vicissitudes with counterpoint and strict style".

In the summer of 1877, Rimsky-Korsakov thought increasingly about the short story May Night
May Night or the Drowned Maiden
May Night, or the Drowned Maiden is the third tale in the collection Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka by Nikolai Gogol...

by Nikolai Gogol
Nikolai Gogol
Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol was a Ukrainian-born Russian dramatist and novelist.Considered by his contemporaries one of the preeminent figures of the natural school of Russian literary realism, later critics have found in Gogol's work a fundamentally romantic sensibility, with strains of Surrealism...

. The story had long been a favorite of his, and his wife Nadezhda had encouraged him to write an opera based on it from the day of their betrothal, when they had read it together. While musical ideas for such a work predated 1877, now they came with greater persistence. By winter May Night took an increasing amount of his attention; in February 1878 he started writing in earnest, and he finished the opera by early November.

Rimsky-Korsakov wrote that May Night
May Night
May Night is an opera in three acts, four scenes, by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov from a libretto by the composer and is based on Nikolai Gogol's story May Night, or the Drowned Maiden, from his collection Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka....

was of great importance because, despite the opera's containing a good deal of contrapuntal music, he nevertheless "cast off the shackles of counterpoint [emphasis Rimsky-Korsakov]". He wrote the opera in a folk-like melodic idiom, and scored it in a transparent manner much in the style of Glinka. Nevertheless, despite the ease of writing this opera and the next, The Snow Maiden
The Snow Maiden
The Snow Maiden: A Spring Fairy Tale is an opera in four acts with a prologue by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, composed during 1880–1881. The Russian libretto, by the composer, is based on the like-named play by Alexander Ostrovsky .The first performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's opera took place at the...

, from time to time he suffered from creative paralysis between 1881 and 1888. He kept busy during this time by editing Mussorgsky's works and completing Borodin's Prince Igor
Prince Igor
Prince Igor is an opera in four acts with a prologue. It was composed by Alexander Borodin. The composer adapted the libretto from the East Slavic epic The Lay of Igor's Host, which recounts the campaign of Russian prince Igor Svyatoslavich against the invading Polovtsian tribes in 1185...

(Mussorgsky died in 1881, Borodin in 1887).

Belyayev circle

Rimsky-Korsakov wrote that he became acquainted with budding music patron Mitrofan Belyayev
Mitrofan Belyayev
Mitrofan Petrovich Belyayev was a Russian music publisher, outstanding philanthropist, and the owner of a large wood dealership enterprise in Russia. He was also the founder of the Belyayev circle, a society of musicians in Russia whose members included Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexander Glazunov...

 (M. P. Belaieff) in Moscow in 1882. Belyayev was one of a growing coterie of Russian nouveau-riche industrialists who became patrons of the arts in mid- to late-19th century Russia; their number included railway magnate Savva Mamontov
Savva Mamontov
Savva Ivanovich Mamontov was a famous Russian industrialist, merchant, entrepreneur, and patron of the arts.-Biography:He was a son of the wealthy merchant and industrialist Ivan Feodorovich Mamontov and Maria Tikhonovna . In 1841 the family moved to Moscow. From 1852 he studied in St...

 and textile manufacturer Pavel Tretyakov
Pavel Tretyakov
Pavel Mikhaylovich Tretyakov was a Russian businessman, patron of art, collector, and philanthropist who gave his name to the Tretyakov Gallery and Tretyakov Drive in Moscow. His brother S.M. Tretyakov was also a famous patron of art and a philanthropist....

. Belyayev, Mamontov and Tretyakov "wanted to contribute conspicuously to public life". They had worked their way into wealth, and being Slavophilic in their national outlook believed in the greater glory of Russia. Because of this belief, they were more likely than the aristocracy to support native talent, and were more inclined to support nationalist artists over cosmopolitan ones. This preference paralleled a general upsurge in nationalism and Russophilia that became prevalent in mainstream Russian art and society.

By the winter of 1883 Rimsky-Korsakov had become a regular visitor to the weekly "quartet Fridays" ("Les Vendredis") held at Belyayev's home in Saint Petersburg. Belyayev, who had already taken a keen interest in the musical future of the teenage Alexander Glazunov
Alexander Glazunov
Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov was a Russian composer of the late Russian Romantic period, music teacher and conductor...

, rented a hall and hired an orchestra in 1884 to play Glazunov's First Symphony plus an orchestral suite Glazunov had just composed. This concert and a rehearsal the previous year gave Rimsky-Korsakov the idea of offering concerts featuring Russian compositions, a prospect to which Belyayev was amenable. The Russian Symphony Concerts
Russian Symphony Concerts
The Russian Symphony Concerts were a series of Russian classical music concerts hosted by timber magnate and musical philanthropist Mitrofan Belyayev in St. Petersburg as a forum for young Russian composers to have their orchestral works performed...

 were inaugurated during the 1886–87 season, with Rimsky-Korsakov sharing conducting duties with Anatoly Lyadov. He finished his revision of Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain
Night on Bald Mountain
Night on Bald Mountain is a composition by Modest Mussorgsky that exists in, at least, two versions—a seldom performed 1867 version or a later and very popular "fantasy for orchestra" arranged by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, A Night on the Bare Mountain , based on the vocal score of the "Dream Vision...

and conducted it at the opening concert. The concerts also coaxed him out of his creative drought; he wrote Scheherazade
Scheherazade (Rimsky-Korsakov)
Sheherazade , Op. 35, is a symphonic suite composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1888. Based on 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...

, Capriccio Espagnol
Capriccio espagnol
Capriccio espagnol, Op. 34, is the common Western title for an orchestral work based on Spanish folk melodies and written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1887. Rimsky-Korsakov originally intended to write the work for a solo violin with orchestra, but later decided that a purely orchestral work...

and the Russian Easter Overture specifically for them. He noted that these three works "show a considerable falling off in the use of contrapuntal devices ... [replaced] by a strong and virtuoso development of every kind of figuration which sustains the technical interest of my compositions."

Rimsky-Korsakov was asked for advice and guidance not just on the Russian Symphony Concerts, but on other projects through which Belyayev aided Russian composers. "By force of matters purely musical I turned out to be the head of the Belyayev circle", he wrote. "As the head Belyayev, too, considered me, consulting me about everything and referring everyone to me as chief". In 1884 Belyayev set up an annual Glinka prize, and in 1885 he founded his own music publishing firm, through which he published works by Borodin, Glazunov, Lyadov and Rimsky-Korsakov at his own expense. To select which composers to assist with money, publication or performances from the many who now appealed for help, Belyayev set up an advisory council made up of Glazunov, Lyadov and Rimsky-Korsakov. They would look through the compositions and appeals submitted and suggest which composers were deserving of patronage and public attention.

The group of composers who now congregated with Glazunov, Lyadov and Rimsky-Korsakov became known as the Belyayev circle
Belyayev circle
The Belyayev circle was a society of Russian musicians who met in St. Petersburg, Russia between 1885 and 1908, and whose members included Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexander Glazunov, Vladimir Stasov, Anatoly Lyadov, Alexander Ossovsky, Witold Maliszewski, Nikolai Tcherepnin, Nikolay Sokolov among...

, named after their financial benefactor. These composers were nationalistic in their musical outlook, as The Five before them had been. Like The Five, they believed in a uniquely Russian style of classical music that utilized folk music and exotic melodic, harmonic and rhythmic elements, as exemplified by the music of Balakirev, Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov. Unlike The Five, these composers also believed in the necessity of an academic, Western-based background in composition—which Rimsky-Korsakov had instilled in his years at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. Compared to the "revolutionary" composers in Balakirev's circle, Rimsky-Korsakov found those in the Belyayev circle to be "progressive ... attaching as it did great importance to technical perfection, but ... also broke new paths, though more securely, even if less speedily ..."

Increased contact with Tchaikovsky

In November 1887, Tchaikovsky arrived in Saint Petersburg in time to hear several of the Russian Symphony Concerts. One of them included the first complete performance of his First Symphony
Symphony No. 1 (Tchaikovsky)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote his Symphony No. 1 in G minor, Winter Daydreams , Op. 13, in 1866, just after he accepted a professorship at the Moscow Conservatory: it is the composer's earliest notable work. The composer's brother Modest claimed this work cost Tchaikovsky more labor and suffering...

, subtitled Winter Daydreams, in its final version. Another concert featured the premiere of Rimsky-Korsakov's Third Symphony in its revised version. Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky corresponded considerably before the visit and spent a lot of time together, along with Glazunov and Lyadov. Though Tchaikovsky had been a regular visitor to the Rimsky-Korsakov home since 1876, and had at one point offered to arrange Rimsky-Korsakov's appointment as director of the Moscow Conservatory, this was the beginning of closer relations between the pair. Within a couple of years, Rimsky-Korsakov wrote, Tchaikovsky's visits became more frequent.

During these visits and especially in public, Rimsky-Korsakov wore a mask of geniality. Privately, he found the situation emotionally complex, and confessed his fears to his friend, the Moscow critic Semyon Kruglikov. Memories persisted of the tension between Tchaikovsky and The Five over the differences in their musical philosophies—tension acute enough for Tchaikovsky's brother Modest to liken their relations at that time to "those between two friendly neighboring states ... cautiously prepared to meet on common ground, but jealously guarding their separate interests". Rimsky-Korsakov observed, not without annoyance, how Tchaikovsky became increasingly popular among Rimsky-Korsakov's followers. This personal jealousy was compounded by a professional one, as Tchaikovsky's music became increasingly popular among the composers of the Belyayev circle, and remained on the whole more famous than his own. Even so, when Tchaikovsky attended Rimsky-Korsakov's nameday
Name day
A name day is a tradition in many countries in Europe and Latin America that consists of celebrating the day of the year associated with one's given name....

 party in May 1893, Rimsky-Korsakov asked Tchaikovsky personally if he would conduct four concerts of the Russian Musical Society
Russian Musical Society
The Russian Musical Society was an organisation founded in 1859 by the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna and her protégé, pianist and composer Anton Rubinstein, with the intent of raising the standard of music in the country and disseminating musical education.Rubinstein and the Grand Duchess's...

 in Saint Petersburg the following season. After hesitation, Tchaikovsky agreed. While his sudden death in late 1893 prevented him from fulfilling this commitment in its entirety, the list of works he had planned to conduct included Rimsky-Korsakov's Third Symphony.

Later years

In March 1889, Angelo Neumann's traveling "Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

 Theater" visited Saint Petersburg, giving four cycles of Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen
Der Ring des Nibelungen is a cycle of four epic operas by the German composer Richard Wagner . The works are based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied...

there under the direction of Karl Muck
Karl Muck
Karl Muck was a German-born conductor of classical music. He based his activities principally in Europe and mostly in opera. His American career comprised two stints at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He endured a public outcry in 1917 that questioned whether his loyalties lay with Germany or the...

. The Five had ignored Wagner's music, but The Ring impressed Rimsky-Korsakov: he was astonished with Wagner's mastery of orchestration. He attended the rehearsals with Glazunov, and followed the score. After hearing these performances, Rimsky-Korsakov devoted himself almost exclusively to composing operas for the rest of his creative life. Wagner's use of the orchestra influenced Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestration, beginning with the arrangement of the polonaise
Polonaise
The polonaise is a slow dance of Polish origin, in 3/4 time. Its name is French for "Polish."The polonaise had a rhythm quite close to that of the Swedish semiquaver or sixteenth-note polska, and the two dances have a common origin....

 from Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov
Boris Godunov (opera)
Boris Godunov is an opera by Modest Mussorgsky . The work was composed between 1868 and 1873 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It is Mussorgsky's only completed opera and is considered his masterpiece. Its subjects are the Russian ruler Boris Godunov, who reigned as Tsar during the Time of Troubles,...

that he made for concert use in 1889.

In 1892 Rimsky-Korsakov suffered a second creative drought, brought on by bouts of depression and alarming physical symptoms. Rushes of blood to the head, confusion, memory loss and unpleasant obsessions led to a medical diagnosis of neurasthenia
Neurasthenia
Neurasthenia is a psycho-pathological term first used by George Miller Beard in 1869 to denote a condition with symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, headache, neuralgia and depressed mood...

. Crises in the Rimsky-Korsakov household may have been a factor—the serious illnesses of his wife and one of his sons from diphtheria
Diphtheria
Diphtheria is an upper respiratory tract illness caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae, a facultative anaerobic, Gram-positive bacterium. It is characterized by sore throat, low fever, and an adherent membrane on the tonsils, pharynx, and/or nasal cavity...

 in 1890, the deaths of his mother and youngest child, as well as the onset of the prolonged, ultimately fatal illness of his second youngest child. He resigned from the Russian Symphony Concerts and the Court Chapel
Saint Petersburg Court Capella
The Saint Petersburg Court Capella is the oldest active Russian professional musical institution. Based in the city of Saint Petersburg, it was founded in 1479 by an order of Ivan III of Russia as the State Choir of Singing Dyaks. The insitution currently consists of a choir, an orchestra, and has...

 and considered giving up composition permanently. After making third versions of the musical tableau Sadko and the opera The Maid of Pskov, he closed his musical account with the past; he had left none of his major works before May Night in their original form.
Another death brought about a creative renewal. The passing of Tchaikovsky presented a twofold opportunity—to write for the Imperial Theaters and to compose an opera based on Nikolai Gogol
Nikolai Gogol
Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol was a Ukrainian-born Russian dramatist and novelist.Considered by his contemporaries one of the preeminent figures of the natural school of Russian literary realism, later critics have found in Gogol's work a fundamentally romantic sensibility, with strains of Surrealism...

's short story Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve (Gogol)
Christmas Eve , literally translated The Night Before Christmas, is the first story in the second volume of the collection Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka by Nikolai Gogol.-Plot:...

, a work on which Tchaikovsky had based his opera Vakula the Smith
Vakula the Smith
Vakula the Smith , is an opera in 3 acts, 8 scenes, by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, his Opus 14. The libretto was written by Yakov Polonsky and is based on Nikolai Gogol's story Christmas Eve . It was written for composer Alexander Serov, who died in 1871 leaving only fragments of an opera on the subject...

. The success of Rimsky-Korsakov's Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve (opera)
Christmas Eve , is an opera in four acts with music and libretto by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Composed between 1894 and 1895, Rimsky-Korsakov based his opera on a short story, "Christmas Eve", from Nikolay Gogol's Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka...

encouraged him to complete an opera approximately every 18 months between 1893 and 1908—a total of 11 during this period. He also started and abandoned another draft of his treatise on orchestration, but made a third attempt and almost finished it in the last four years of his life. (His son-in-law Maximilian Steinberg
Maximilian Steinberg
Maximilian Osseyevich Steinberg was a Russian composer of classical music born in what is now Lithuania.-Life:...

 completed the book in 1912.) Rimsky-Korsakov's scientific treatment of orchestration, illustrated with more than 300 examples from his work, set a new standard for texts of its kind.

In 1905, demonstrations took place at Saint Petersburg Conservatory as part of the 1905 Revolution
Russian Revolution of 1905
The 1905 Russian Revolution was a wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian Empire. Some of it was directed against the government, while some was undirected. It included worker strikes, peasant unrest, and military mutinies...

; these, Rimsky-Korsakov wrote, were triggered by similar disturbances at Saint Petersburg State University
Saint Petersburg State University
Saint Petersburg State University is a Russian federal state-owned higher education institution based in Saint Petersburg and one of the oldest and largest universities in Russia....

, in which students demanded political reforms and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

 in Russia. "I was chosen a member of the committee for adjusting differences with agitated pupils", he recalled; however, almost as soon as the committee had been formed, "[a]ll sorts of measures were recommended to expel the ringleaders, to quarter the police in the Conservatory, to close the Conservatory entirely". A lifelong liberal politically, he wrote that he felt someone had to protect the rights of the students to demonstrate, especially as disputes and wrangling between students and authorities were becoming increasingly violent. In an open letter, he sided with the students against what he saw as unwarranted interference by Conservatory leadership and the Russian Musical Society. A second letter, this time signed by a number of faculty including Rimsky-Korsakov, demanded the resignation of the head of the Conservatory. Partly as a result of these two letters, he wrote, approximately 100 Conservatory students were expelled, and he was removed from his professorship. Just before the dismissal was enacted, Rimsky-Korsakov received a letter from one of the members of the school directorate, suggesting that he take up the directorship in the interest of calming student unrest. "Probably the member of the Directorate held a minority opinion, but signed the resolution nevertheless," he wrote. "I sent a negative reply."

Not long after Rimsky-Korsakov's dismissal, a student production of his opera Kashchey the Deathless was followed not with the scheduled concert but with a political demonstration, which led to a police ban on Rimsky-Korsakov's work. Due in part to widespread press coverage of these events, an immediate wave of outrage to the ban arose throughout Russia and abroad; liberals and intellectuals deluged the composer's residence with letters of sympathy, and even peasants who had not heard a note of Rimsky-Korsakov's music sent small monetary donations. Several faculty members of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory resigned in protest, including Glazunov and Lyadov. Eventually, over 300 students walked out of the Conservatory in solidarity with Rimsky-Korsakov. By December he had been reinstated under a new director, Glazunov; Rimsky-Korsakov retired from the Conservatory in 1906. The political controversy continued with his opera The Golden Cockerel
The Golden Cockerel
The Golden Cockerel is an opera in three acts, with short prologue and even shorter epilogue, by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Its libretto, by Vladimir Belsky, derives from Alexander Pushkin's 1834 poem The Tale of the Golden Cockerel, which in turn is based on two chapters of Tales of the Alhambra by...

. Its implied criticism of monarchy, Russian imperialism and the Russo-Japanese War
Russo-Japanese War
The Russo-Japanese War was "the first great war of the 20th century." It grew out of rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and Japanese Empire over Manchuria and Korea...

 gave it little chance of passing the censors. The premiere was delayed until 1909, after Rimsky-Korsakov's death, and even then it was performed in an adapted version.
In April 1907, Rimsky-Korsakov conducted a pair of concerts in Paris, hosted by impresario Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev , usually referred to outside of Russia as Serge, was a Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and founder of the Ballets Russes, from which many famous dancers and choreographers would arise.-Early life and career:...

, which featured music of the Russian nationalist school. The concerts were hugely successful in popularizing Russian classical music of this kind in Europe, Rimsky-Korsakov's in particular. The following year, his opera Sadko was produced at the Paris Opéra
Paris Opera
The Paris Opera is the primary opera company of Paris, France. It was founded in 1669 by Louis XIV as the Académie d'Opéra and shortly thereafter was placed under the leadership of Jean-Baptiste Lully and renamed the Académie Royale de Musique...

 and The Snow Maiden at the Opéra-Comique
Opéra-Comique
The Opéra-Comique is a Parisian opera company, which was founded around 1714 by some of the popular theatres of the Parisian fairs. In 1762 the company was merged with, and for a time took the name of its chief rival the Comédie-Italienne at the Hôtel de Bourgogne, and was also called the...

. He also had the opportunity to hear more recent music by European composers. He hissed unabashedly when he heard Richard Strauss
Richard Strauss
Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till...

's opera Salome
Salome (opera)
Salome is an opera in one act by Richard Strauss to a German libretto by the composer, based on Hedwig Lachmann’s German translation of the French play Salomé by Oscar Wilde. Strauss dedicated the opera to his friend Sir Edgar Speyer....

, and told Diaghilev after hearing Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy
Claude-Achille Debussy was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music, though he himself intensely disliked the term when applied to his compositions...

's opera Pelléas et Mélisande
Pelléas et Mélisande (opera)
Pelléas et Mélisande is an opera in five acts with music by Claude Debussy. The French libretto was adapted from Maurice Maeterlinck's Symbolist play Pelléas et Mélisande...

, "Do not make me listen to all these horrors, or I shall end up liking them!" Hearing these works led him to appreciate his place in the world of classical music. He admitted that he was a "convinced kuchkist" (after kuchka, the shortened Russian term for The Five) and that his works belonged to an era that musical trends had left behind.

Beginning around 1890, Rimsky-Korsakov suffered from angina. While this ailment initially wore him down gradually, the stresses concurrent with the 1905 Revolution and its aftermath greatly accelerated its progress. After December 1907, his illness became severe, and he could not work. In 1908 he died at his Lubensk estate near Luga (modern day Plyusski
Plyussa River
The Plyussa , is a river in Pskov Oblast and Leningrad Oblast of Russia, a right tributary of the Narva. It joins the Narva at the southern bay of the Narva Reservoir...

 district of the Pskov region
Pskov Oblast
Pskov Oblast is a federal subject of Russia . Pskov Oblast borders the countries of Estonia and Latvia, as well as Belarus. It is the westernmost federal subject of contiguous Russia . Its major cities are the administrative center Pskov and Velikiye Luki . Area: 55,300 km²...

), and was interred in Tikhvin Cemetery
Tikhvin Cemetery
Tikhvin Cemetery is located at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, in Saint Petersburg, Russia.Established in 1823, some of the notables buried here are:* Mily Balakirev - , composer* Alexander Borodin - , composer...

 at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in Saint Petersburg, next to Borodin, Glinka, Mussorgsky and Stasov.

Compositions

Rimsky-Korsakov was a prolific composer. As a perpetual self-critic, he revised every orchestral work up to and including his Third Symphony—some, like Antar and Sadko, more than once. These revisions range from minor changes of tempo, phrasing and instrumental detail to wholesale transposition
Transposition (music)
In music transposition refers to the process, or operation, of moving a collection of notes up or down in pitch by a constant interval.For example, one might transpose an entire piece of music into another key...

 and complete recomposition.

Rimsky-Korsakov was open about the influences in his music, telling Vasily Yastrebtsev, "Study Liszt and Balakirev more closely, and you'll see that a great deal in me is not mine". Nevertheless, while he took Glinka and Liszt as models, his use of whole tone
Whole tone scale
In music, a whole tone scale is a scale in which each note is separated from its neighbors by the interval of a whole step. There are only two complementary whole tone scales, both six-note or hexatonic scales:...

 and octatonic scale
Octatonic scale
An octatonic scale is any eight-note musical scale. Among the most famous of these is a scale in which the notes ascend in alternating intervals of a whole step and a half step, creating a symmetric scale...

s do demonstrate his originality. He developed both these compositional devices for the "fantastic" sections of his operas, which depicted magical or supernatural characters and events. Rimsky-Korsakov continued to be interested in harmonic experiments and the exploration of new idioms, but this interest was coupled with an abhorrence of excess, and he kept his tendency to experiment under constant control. The more radical his harmonies became, the more he attempted to control them with strict rules—applying his "musical conscience", he called it. In this sense, he was both a progressive and a conservative composer. The whole tone and octatonic scales were both considered adventurous in the Western classical tradition, and Rimsky-Korsakov's use of them made his harmonies seem radical. Conversely, his care about how or when in a composition he used these scales made him seem conservative compared with later composers like Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

, though they were often building on Rimsky-Korsakov's work.

Operas

Musicologist Gerald Abraham
Gerald Abraham
Gerald Ernest Heal Abraham, CBE, FBA was an English musicologist; he was President of the Royal Musical Association, 1970-74.- Career :* Assistant Editor, Radio Times, 1935–39* Deputy Editor, The Listener, 1939–42...

 wrote that while Rimsky-Korsakov is best known in the West for his orchestral works, his operas are more complex; they offer a wider variety of orchestral effects than in his instrumental works, as well as fine vocal writing. Subjects range from historical melodramas (The Tsar's Bride
The Tsar's Bride (opera)
The Tsar's Bride is an opera in four acts by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, the composer's tenth opera. The libretto, by Il’ya Tyumenev, is based on the drama of the same name by Lev Mey. Mey's play was first suggested to the composer as an opera subject in 1868 by Mily Balakirev...

) to folk operas (May Night
May Night
May Night is an opera in three acts, four scenes, by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov from a libretto by the composer and is based on Nikolai Gogol's story May Night, or the Drowned Maiden, from his collection Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka....

), fairytales
Fairy tale
A fairy tale is a type of short story that typically features such folkloric characters, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments. However, only a small number of the stories refer to fairies...

 and legend
Legend
A legend is a narrative of human actions that are perceived both by teller and listeners to take place within human history and to possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude...

s (The Snow Maiden
The Snow Maiden
The Snow Maiden: A Spring Fairy Tale is an opera in four acts with a prologue by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, composed during 1880–1881. The Russian libretto, by the composer, is based on the like-named play by Alexander Ostrovsky .The first performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's opera took place at the...

, Kashchey the Immortal
Kashchey the Immortal (opera)
Kashchey the Deathless , aka Kashchey the Immortal, is a one-act opera in three scenes by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The libretto was written by the composer, and is based on a Russian fairy tale about Koschei the Deathless, an evil, ugly old wizard, who menaced principally young women...

and The Tale of Tsar Saltan
The Tale of Tsar Saltan (Rimsky-Korsakov)
The Tale of Tsar Saltan is an opera in four acts with a prologue, seven scenes, by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The libretto was written by Vladimir Belsky, and is based on the poem of the same name by Aleksandr Pushkin...

). Of this range Rimsky-Korsakov wrote in 1902, "In every new work of mine I am trying to do something that is new for me. On the one hand, I am pushed on by the thought that in this way, [my music] will retain freshness and interest, but at the same time I am prompted by my pride to think that many facets, devices, moods and styles, if not all, should be with my reach."

Rimsky-Korsakov's music often lacks dramatic power, a seemingly fatal flaw in an operatic composer. This may have been consciously done, as he repeatedly stated in his scores that he felt operas were first and foremost musical works rather than mainly dramatic ones. Ironically, the operas succeed in most cases by being deliberately non-dramatic. Toward this end he devised a dual musical language—diatonic
Diatonic and chromatic
Diatonic and chromatic are terms in music theory that are most often used to characterize scales, and are also applied to intervals, chords, notes, musical styles, and kinds of harmony...

 and lyrical music much like Russian folk music for the "real" human characters and chromatic
Chromatic scale
The chromatic scale is a musical scale with twelve pitches, each a semitone apart. On a modern piano or other equal-tempered instrument, all the half steps are the same size...

, artificial music for the "unreal" or "fantastic" magical beings. Harold C. Schonberg
Harold C. Schonberg
Harold Charles Schonberg was an American music critic and journalist, most notably for The New York Times. He was the first music critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism...

 phrased it thus: "[the operas] open up a delightful new world, the world of the Russian East, the world of supernaturalism and the exotic, the world of Slavic pantheism and vanished races. Genuine poetry suffuses them, and they are scored with brilliance and resource."

Excerpts and suites from Rimsky-Korsakov's operas have proved as popular in the West as the purely orchestral works. The best-known of these excerpts is probably "The Flight of the Bumblebee" from The Tale of Tsar Saltan
The Tale of Tsar Saltan
The Tale of Tsar Saltan, of His Son the Renowned and Mighty Bogatyr Prince Gvidon Saltanovich, and of the Beautiful Princess-Swan is an 1831 poem by Aleksandr Pushkin, written after the Russian fairy tale edited by Vladimir Dahl...

,
which has often been heard by itself in orchestral programs, and in countless arrangements and transcriptions, most famously in a piano version made by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Rachmaninoff
Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor. Rachmaninoff is widely considered one of the finest pianists of his day and, as a composer, one of the last great representatives of Romanticism in Russian classical music...

. Other selections familiar to listeners in the West are "Dance of the Tumblers" from The Snow Maiden, "Procession of the Nobles" from Mlada
Mlada (Rimsky-Korsakov)
Mlada is an opera-ballet in four acts, composed between 1889 and 1890 by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, to a libretto by Viktor Krylov that was originally employed for an aborted project of the same name from 1872.-Performance history:...

, and "Song of the Indian Guest" (or, less accurately, "Song of India") from Sadko
Sadko (opera)
Sadko is an opera in seven scenes by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The libretto was written by the composer, with assistance from Vladimir Belsky, Vladimir Stasov, and others. Rimsky-Korsakov was first inspired by the bylina of Sadko in 1867, when he completed a tone poem on the subject, his Op. 5...

, as well as suites from The Golden Cockerel
The Golden Cockerel
The Golden Cockerel is an opera in three acts, with short prologue and even shorter epilogue, by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Its libretto, by Vladimir Belsky, derives from Alexander Pushkin's 1834 poem The Tale of the Golden Cockerel, which in turn is based on two chapters of Tales of the Alhambra by...

and The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya
The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya
The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya is an opera in four acts by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The libretto was written by Vladimir Belsky, and is based on a combination of two Russian legends: that of St. Fevroniya of Murom, and the city of Kitezh, which became invisible...

.

Orchestral works

The purely orchestral works are mainly programmatic in nature—the musical content and sequence of events is determined by a story, a painting or another non-musical source, rather than by abstract rules of musical composition. To Rimsky-Korsakov, the use of a program in music was natural, if his comment is taken at face value: "To me, even a folk theme has a program of sorts." The orchestral works show the dual influence of Balakirev and Liszt—Balakirev in the use of the whole tone scale and musical orientalism
Orientalism
Orientalism is a term used for the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists, as well as having other meanings...

; Liszt likewise for harmonic adventurousness, as well as the programmatic nature of his music. They also continue the musical ideals espoused by The Five, such as in the use of liturgical themes in the Russian Easter Festival Overture
Russian Easter Festival Overture
Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op. 36 is a concert overture written by the Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov between August 1887 and April 1888, and dedicated to the memories of Modest Mussorgsky and Alexander Borodin, two members of the legendary "Mighty Handful." It is subtitled...

; this work also follows the design and plan of Balakirev's Second Overture on Russian Themes. Capriccio Espagnol
Capriccio espagnol
Capriccio espagnol, Op. 34, is the common Western title for an orchestral work based on Spanish folk melodies and written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1887. Rimsky-Korsakov originally intended to write the work for a solo violin with orchestra, but later decided that a purely orchestral work...

is based on folk song but its structure is more rhapsodic. Scheherazade
Scheherazade (Rimsky-Korsakov)
Sheherazade , Op. 35, is a symphonic suite composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1888. Based on 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...

became the best-known expression of Russian musical orientalism, and possibly his best known work; with the Sultan introduced by a robust theme in the brass and Scheherazade in the arabesques of a violin solo, the paradigm between barbarous despotism and feminine seduction is set forth at once. The Scheherazade theme links this work with the orientalism of The Five while being in itself very closely related to Balakirev's Tamara. Rimsky-Korsakov considered Capriccio Espagnol, the Russian Easter Festival Overture and Scheherazade to "close a period of my work, at the end of which my orchestration has attained a considerable degree of virtuosity and warm sonority without Wagnerian influence, limiting myself to the normally constituted orchestra used by Glinka." Another exercise in orientalism is the symphonic poem
Symphonic poem
A symphonic poem or tone poem is a piece of orchestral music in a single continuous section in which the content of a poem, a story or novel, a painting, a landscape or another source is illustrated or evoked. The term was first applied by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt to his 13 works in this vein...

 Night on Mount Triglav, a symphonic rearrangement of Act III of the opera Mlada.

Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestral works are especially celebrated for their imaginative use of instrumental forces. Though this is true even of early works such as Sadko
Sadko (musical tableau)
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov wrote his "musical tableau" Sadko, Op. 5, in 1867 but revised the work in 1869 and 1892. It has sometimes been called the first symphonic poem written in Russia...

and Antar
Antar (Rimsky-Korsakov)
Antar is a composition for symphony orchestra in four movements by the Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. He wrote the piece in 1868 but revised the work in 1875 and 1891. He initially called this work his Second Symphony. He later reconsidered and called it a symphonic suite...

, their sparer textures pale compared to the luxuriance of the more popular works of the 1880s. While a principle of highlighting "primary hues" of instrumental color remained in place, it was augmented in the later works by a sophisticated cachet of orchestral effects, some gleaned from other composers including Wagner, but many invented by himself. As a result, these works resemble brightly colored mosaics, striking in their own right and often scored with a juxtaposition of pure orchestral groups. The final tutti of Scheherazade is a prime example of this scoring. The theme is assigned to trombone
Trombone
The trombone is a musical instrument in the brass family. Like all brass instruments, sound is produced when the player’s vibrating lips cause the air column inside the instrument to vibrate...

s playing in unison, and is accompanied by a combination of string
String instrument
A string instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound by means of vibrating strings. In the Hornbostel-Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification, used in organology, they are called chordophones...

 patterns. Meanwhile, another pattern alternates with chromatic scales in the woodwinds and a third pattern of rhythms is played by percussion.

Smaller-scale works

Rimsky-Korsakov composed dozens of art song
Art song
An art song is a vocal music composition, usually written for one voice with piano or orchestral accompaniment. By extension, the term "art song" is used to refer to the genre of such songs....

s, arrangements of folk songs, chamber
Chamber music
Chamber music is a form of classical music, written for a small group of instruments which traditionally could be accommodated in a palace chamber. Most broadly, it includes any art music that is performed by a small number of performers with one performer to a part...

 and piano music, and a body of choral works, both secular and for Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

 service. The latter include settings of portions of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom
John Chrysostom
John Chrysostom , Archbishop of Constantinople, was an important Early Church Father. He is known for his eloquence in preaching and public speaking, his denunciation of abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and his ascetic...

(despite his staunch atheism).

Students

In his decades at the Conservatory, Rimsky-Korsakov taught composers who later found fame, including Anatoly Lyadov, Alexander Glazunov
Alexander Glazunov
Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov was a Russian composer of the late Russian Romantic period, music teacher and conductor...

, Alexander Spendiaryan
Alexander Spendiaryan
Alexander Spendiaryan was an Armenian music composer, conductor, founder of Armenian national symphonic music and one of the patriarchs of Armenian classical music. His compositions include the opera Almast and the Yerevan Etudes among others...

, Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Prokofiev
Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor who mastered numerous musical genres and is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century...

, Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

, Ottorino Respighi
Ottorino Respighi
Ottorino Respighi was an Italian composer, musicologist and conductor. He is best known for his orchestral "Roman trilogy": Fountains of Rome ; Pines of Rome ; and Roman Festivals...

, Witold Maliszewski
Witold Maliszewski
Witold Maliszewski , was a Polish composer, first Rector and founder of Odessa Conservatory and professor at Warsaw Conservatory, pupil of N. Rimsky-Korsakov.- Biography :...

, Mykola Lysenko
Mykola Lysenko
Mykola Vitaliiovych Lysenko was a Ukrainian composer, pianist, conductor and ethnomusicologist.- Biography :Lysenko was born in Hrynky, Kremenchuk Povit, Poltava Governorate, the son of Vitaliy Romanovich Lysenko . From childhood he became very interested in the folksongs of Ukrainian peasants and...

, Artur Kapp
Artur Kapp
Artur Kapp was an Estonian composer.Born in Suure-Jaani, Estonia, then part of the Governorate of Livonia, Russian Empire, he was the son of Joosep Kapp, who was also a classically trained musician...

, and Konstanty Gorski
Konstanty Gorski
Konstanty Antoni Gorski was a Polish composer, violinist, organist and music teacher.-Life:...

. Other students included the music critic and musicologist Alexander Ossovsky
Alexander Ossovsky
Alexander Vyacheslavovich Ossovsky , 1871 –July 31, 1957) was a renowned Russian musical writer, critic and musicologist, professor at Saint Petersburg Conservatory, pupil of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and friend of Sergei Rachmaninoff, Alexander Siloti and Nikolai...

, and the composer Lazare Saminsky
Lazare Saminsky
Lazare Saminsky, born Lazar Iosifovich Saminsky, was a performer, conductor and composer, especially of Jewish music.-Life:...

.

Rimsky-Korsakov felt talented students needed little formal dictated instruction. His teaching method included distinct steps: show the students everything needed in harmony and counterpoint; direct them in understanding the forms of composition; give them a year or two of systematic study in the development of technique, exercises in free composition and orchestration; instill a good knowledge of the piano. Once these were properly completed, studies would be over. He carried this attitude into his conservatory classes. Conductor Nikolai Malko
Nikolai Malko
-Biography:Malko was born in Semaky, Ukraine. His father was Ukrainian, his mother Russian. He studied philology at St Petersburg University. He published articles on music criticism in the Russian press and performed as a pianist and later a conductor. In 1906 he completed his studies in history...

 remembered that Rimsky-Korsakov began the first class of the term by saying, "I will speak, and you will listen. Then I will speak less, and you will start to work. And finally I will not speak at all, and you will work." Malko added that his class followed exactly this pattern. "Rimsky-Korsakov explained everything so clearly and simply that all we had to do was to do our work well."

Editing the work of The Five

Rimsky-Korsakov's editing of works by The Five are significant. It was a practical extension of the collaborative atmosphere of The Five during the 1860s and 1870s, when they heard each other's compositions in progress and worked on them together, and was an effort to save works that would otherwise either have languished unheard or become lost entirely. This work included the completion of Alexander Borodin
Alexander Borodin
Alexander Porfiryevich Borodin was a Russian Romantic composer and chemist of Georgian–Russian parentage. He was a member of the group of composers called The Five , who were dedicated to producing a specifically Russian kind of art music...

's opera Prince Igor
Prince Igor
Prince Igor is an opera in four acts with a prologue. It was composed by Alexander Borodin. The composer adapted the libretto from the East Slavic epic The Lay of Igor's Host, which recounts the campaign of Russian prince Igor Svyatoslavich against the invading Polovtsian tribes in 1185...

, which Rimsky-Korsakov undertook with the help of Glazunov after Borodin's death, and the orchestration of passages from César Cui
César Cui
César Antonovich Cui was a Russian of French and Lithuanian descent. His profession was as an army officer and a teacher of fortifications; his avocational life has particular significance in the history of music, in that he was a composer and music critic; in this sideline he is known as a...

's William Ratcliff
William Ratcliff (Cui)
William Ratcliff is an opera in three acts, composed by César Cui during 1861-1868; it was premiered on 14 February 1869 at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg under the conductorship of Eduard Nápravník...

for its first production in 1869. He also completely orchestrated the opera The Stone Guest
The Stone Guest (Dargomyzhsky)
The Stone Guest is an opera in three acts by Alexander Dargomyzhsky. The libretto was taken almost verbatim from Alexander Pushkin's like-named play in blank verse , with slight changes in wording and the interpolation of two songs indicated in the play...

 by
Alexander Dargomyzhsky
Alexander Dargomyzhsky
Alexander Sergeyevich Dargomyzhsky was a 19th century Russian composer. He bridged the gap in Russian opera composition between Mikhail Glinka and the later generation of The Five and Tchaikovsky....

 three times—in 1869–70, 1892 and 1902. While not a member of The Five himself, Dargomyzhsky was closely associated with the group and shared their musical philosophy.

Musicologist Francis Maes wrote that while Rimsky-Korsakov's efforts are laudable, they are also controversial. It was generally assumed that with Prince Igor, Rimsky-Korsakov edited and orchestrated the existing fragments of the opera while Glazunov composed and added missing parts, including most of the third act and the overture. This was exactly what Rimsky-Korsakov stated in his memoirs. However, both Maes and Richard Taruskin
Richard Taruskin
Richard Taruskin is an American-Russian musicologist, music historian, and critic who has written about the theory of performance, Russian music, fifteenth-century music, twentieth-century music, nationalism, the theory of modernism, and analysis. As a choral conductor he directed the Columbia...

 cite an analysis of Borodin's manuscripts by musicologist Pavel Lamm, which showed that Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov discarded nearly 20 percent of Borodin's score. According to Maes, the result is more a collaborative effort by all three composers than a true representation of Borodin's intent. Lamm stated that because of the extremely chaotic state of Borodin's manuscripts, a modern alternative to Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov's edition would be extremely difficult to complete.

More debatable, according to Maes, is Rimsky-Korsakov's editing of Mussorgsky's works. After Mussorgsky's death in 1881, Rimsky-Korsakov revised and completed several of Mussorgsky's works for publication and performance, helping to spread Mussorgsky's works throughout Russia and to the West. However Maes, in reviewing Mussorgsky's scores, wrote that Rimsky-Korsakov allowed his "musical conscience" to dictate his editing, and he changed or removed what he considered musical over-experimentation or poor form. Because of this, Rimsky-Korsakov has been accused of pedantry in "correcting", among other things, matters of harmony. Rimsky-Korsakov may have foreseen questions over his efforts when he wrote,

If Mussorgsky's compositions are destined to live unfaded for fifty years after their author's death (when all his works will become the property of any and every publisher), such an archeologically accurate edition will always be possible, as the manuscripts went to the Public Library on leaving me. For the present, though, there was need of an edition for performances, for practical artistic purposes, for making his colossal talent known, and not for the mere studying of his personality and artistic sins.


Maes stated that time proved Rimsky-Korsakov correct when it came to posterity's re-evaluation of Mussorgsky's work. Mussorgsky's musical style, once considered unpolished, is now admired for its originality. While Rimsky-Korsakov's arrangement of Night on Bald Mountain
Night on Bald Mountain
Night on Bald Mountain is a composition by Modest Mussorgsky that exists in, at least, two versions—a seldom performed 1867 version or a later and very popular "fantasy for orchestra" arranged by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, A Night on the Bare Mountain , based on the vocal score of the "Dream Vision...

is still the version generally performed, Rimsky-Korsakov's other revisions, like his version of Boris Godunov
Boris Godunov (opera)
Boris Godunov is an opera by Modest Mussorgsky . The work was composed between 1868 and 1873 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It is Mussorgsky's only completed opera and is considered his masterpiece. Its subjects are the Russian ruler Boris Godunov, who reigned as Tsar during the Time of Troubles,...

, have been replaced by Mussorgsky's original.

Folklore and pantheism

Rimsky-Korsakov may have saved the most personal side of his creativity for his approach to Russian folklore. Folklorism as practiced by Balakirev and the other members of The Five had been based largely on the protyazhnaya dance song. Protyazhnaya literally meant "drawn-out song", or melisma
Melisma
Melisma, in music, is the singing of a single syllable of text while moving between several different notes in succession. Music sung in this style is referred to as melismatic, as opposed to syllabic, where each syllable of text is matched to a single note.-History:Music of ancient cultures used...

tically elaborated lyric song. The characteristics of this song exhibit extreme rhythmic flexibility, an asymmetrical phrase structure and tonal ambiguity. After composing May Night, however, Rimsky-Korsakov was increasingly drawn to "calendar songs", which were written for specific ritual occasions. The ties to folk culture was what interested him most in folk music, even in his days with The Five; these songs formed a part of rural customs, echoed old Slavic paganism, and the pantheistic
Pantheism
Pantheism is the view that the Universe and God are identical. Pantheists thus do not believe in a personal, anthropomorphic or creator god. The word derives from the Greek meaning "all" and the Greek meaning "God". As such, Pantheism denotes the idea that "God" is best seen as a process of...

 world of folk rites. Rimsky-Korsakov wrote that his interest in these songs was heightened by his study of them while compiling his folk song collections. He wrote that he "was captivated by the poetic side of the cult of sun-worship, and sought its survivals and echoes in both the tunes and the words of the songs. The pictures of the ancient pagan period and spirit loomed before me, as it then seemed, with great clarity, luring me on with the charm of antiquity. These occupations subsequently had a great influence in the direction of my own activity as a composer".

Rimsky-Korsakov's interest in pantheism was whetted by the folkloristic studies of Alexander Afanasyev
Alexander Afanasyev
Alexander Nikolayevich Afanasyev was a Russian folklorist who recorded and published over 600 Russian folktales and fairytales, by far the largest folktale collection by any one man in the world...

. That author's standard work, The Poetic Outlook on Nature by the Slavs, became Rimsky-Korsakov's pantheistic bible. The composer first applied Afanasyev's ideas in May Night, in which he helped fill out Gogol's story by using folk dances and calendar songs. He went further down this path in The Snow Maiden, where he made extensive use of seasonal calendar songs and khorovodi (ceremonial dances) in the folk tradition.

Publications

Rimsky-Korsakov's autobiography and his books on harmony and orchestration have been translated into English and published. Two books he started in 1892 but left unfinished were a comprehensive text on Russian music and a manuscript, now lost, on an unknown subject.
  • My Musical Life. [Летопись моей музыкальной жизни – literally, Chronicle of My Musical Life.] Trans. from the 5th rev. Russian ed. by Judah A. Joffe; ed. with an introduction by Carl Van Vechten. London: Ernst Eulenburg Ltd
    Ernst Eulenburg (musical editions)
    Ernst Eulenburg the music publisher was established by Ernst Eulenburg in Leipzig in 1874. The firm started by publishing a series of studies by a Dresden piano teacher, and then expanded into light music and works for men's chorus, at first all non-copyright works.-Origins of the miniature...

    , 1974.
  • Practical Manual of Harmony. [Практический учебник гармонии.] First published, in Russian, in 1885. First English edition published by Carl Fischer in 1930, trans. from the 12th Russian ed. by Joseph Achron. Current English ed. by Nicholas Hopkins, New York, New York: C. Fischer, 2005.
  • Principles of Orchestration. [Основы оркестровки.] Begun in 1873 and completed posthumously by Maximilian Steinberg in 1912, first published, in Russian, in 1922 ed. by Maximilian Steinberg. English trans. by Edward Agate; New York: Dover Publications, 1964 ("unabridged and corrected republication of the work first published by Edition russe de musique in 1922").

External links

Films

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