Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy Birthday, Nikolai

Rimsky-Korsakoff portrait by SerovNikolai Andreevich Rimsky-Korsakov (Николай Андреевич Римский-Корсаков) was born today in Tikhvin, Russia, in 1844. As one of The Five - along with Mily Balakirev, César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, and Alexander Borodin (Милий Алексеевич Балакирев, Цезарий-Вениамин Антонович Кюи, Модест Петрович Мусоргский,and Александр Порфирьевич Бородин) - he strove to write music that was Russian rather than European. In Russian they're called the Mighty Pack (or Group) - Могучая кучка. He's best known in the West for his symphonies and especially his Scheherazade suite, and for his operas, especially Sadko and The Snow Maiden, in Russia.

In 1905 Rimsky-Korsakov sided with the hundred students expelled from the St Petersburg Conservatory, where he taught, for taking part in the February Revolution. He was fired, and students put on his Kaschei the Immortal (or Kaschei the Deathless) and followed it with a demonstration. His works were subsequently banned. Riots and resignations followed in support until he was reinstated, but his next opera, The Golden Cockerel, was critical of monarchy, imperialism, and by implication the on-going Russo-Japanese War, and it only exacerbated his troubles with the tsarist police and wasn't produced until 1909, a year after his death - and then in an edited format.

This was his teaching philosophy:
Сейчас я буду очень много говорить, а вы будете очень внимательно слушать. Потом я буду говорить меньше, а вы будете слушать и думать, и, наконец, я совсем не буду говорить, и вы будете думать своей головой и работать самостоятельно, потому что моя задача как учителя - стать вам ненужным...

"Now I will speak a great deal, and you will listen very attentively. Then I will speak less, and you will listen and think, and finally I will not speak at all, and you will think to yourselves and work on your own, because my task as a teacher is to become unnecessary to you."

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At 9:37 AM, March 18, 2011 Anonymous Kathie had this to say...

A music professor of mine observed that Rimsky-Korsakov, besides being a composer, was one of the greatest orchestrators of all time, because he truly had an "ear" for how the music (his or others') would sound -- and he did so without resorting to bigger-is-better orchestra instrumentation, either (which may well have been part of his genius)!


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