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Famous Like Me > Composer > R > Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Profile of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov on Famous Like Me

Name: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 18th March 1844
Place of Birth: Tikhvin, Russia
Profession: Composer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (Russian: Николай Андреевич Римский-Корсаков, Nikolaj Andreevič Rimskij-Korsakov), also Nikolay, Nicolai, and Rimsky-Korsakoff, (March 6/18, 1844–June 8/21, 1908) was a Russian composer and teacher of classical music particularly noted for his fine orchestration, which may have been influenced by his synaesthesia. His most famous compositions are Flight of the Bumblebee, Capriccio Espagnol, Russian Easter Overture, and Scheherazade.



Born at Tikhvin, near Novgorod, into an aristocratic family, Rimsky-Korsakov showed musical ability from an early age, but studied at the Russian Imperial Naval College in Saint Petersburg and subsequently joined the Russian Navy. It was only when he met Mily Balakirev that he began to concentrate more seriously on music. Balakirev encouraged him to compose and taught him when he was not at sea. He also met the other composers of the group that were to become known as "The Five", or "The Mighty Handful", through Balakirev. (The Russian for "The Five", Могучая Кучка, means literally "mighty pile" or "mighty mound"; and actually does not sound any more attractive in Russian than the translation does in English.) While in the Navy, Rimsky-Korsakov completed his first symphony (1861-1865), which some have deemed the first such piece to be composed by a Russian, but this is not the case (the Russian Anton Rubinstein composed his own first symphony in 1850). He also completed his well known orchestral piece Sadko (1867) and the opera The Maid of Pskov (1872), before resigning his commission in 1873. These three are among several early works which the composer revised later in life.

Rimsky-Korsakov and the other members of "The Five" frequently collaborated on or edited each other's compositions. In particular, after the death of Modest Mussorgsky in 1881, Rimsky-Korsakov took on the task of revising several of Mussorgsky's pieces for publication and performance. For example, Rimsky-Korsakov's arrangement of Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain is the version generally performed today. However, critical opinion of Mussorgsky has changed over time so that his style, once considered unpolished, is now valued for its originality. This has caused some of Rimsky-Korsakov's other revisions, such as that of Boris Godunov, to fall out of favor and be replaced by productions more faithful to Mussorgsky's original manuscripts.

Rimsky-Korsakov's grave at Tikhvin Cemetery.

In 1871, despite being largely self-taught, Rimsky-Korsakov became professor of composition and orchestration at the Saint Petersburg Conservatoire. There he taught many composers who would later find fame, including Alexander Glazunov, Sergei Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky. He continued to be a prolific composer, producing many orchestral works, including the well known Scheherazade and Capriccio espagnol. He also wrote fifteen operas, including Kashchei the Immortal and The Tale of Tsar Saltan, the latter of which includes the famous Flight of the Bumblebee, since arranged for all kinds of different instrumental groups. Among his Russian Orthodox liturgical music is the a cappella Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.

In 1905 Rimsky-Korsakov was removed from his professorship in Saint Petersburg owing to his expressing some political views the authorities disapproved of. This sparked a series of resignations by his fellow faculty members, and he was eventually reinstated. The political controversy continued with his opera The Golden Cockerel (Le Coq d'Or) (1906-1907), whose implied criticism of monarchy upset the censors to the point that the premiere was delayed until 1909, after the composer's death.

Towards the end of his life, Rimsky-Korsakov suffered from angina. He died in Lyubensk in 1908, and was interred in Tikhvin Cemetery at the Aleksandr Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg. His nephew Georgy Mikhaylovich Rimsky-Korsakov was also a composer; son Andrey Nikolayevich Rimsky-Korsakov was a musicologist.

Musical Works








Folksong Collections

Editing or Completion of Works by Others


Major Literary Works

  • Textbook of Harmony
  • Chronicle of My Musical Life
  • Principles of Orchestration

Bibliographic Sources

  • Gerald Abraham: Rimsky-Korsakov (1949, ISBN 0781296234)
  • Gerald Abraham: Rimsky-Korsakov: A Short Biography (1975, ISBN 0404145000)
  • Vasilii Vasilevich Yastrebtsev: Reminiscences of Rimsky-Korsakov, [abridged] (1985, ISBN 023105260X)

Other Media

  • Song of Scheherazade at the Internet Movie Database

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov