Rimsky-Korsakov, Nicolai Andreyevich

Rimsky-Korsakov, Nicolai Andreyevich nyĭkəlī əndrā´əvĭch rĭm´skē-kôr´səkôf [key], 1844–1908, Russian composer; one of the group of nationalist composers called The Five. He prepared himself for a naval career, but after meeting Balakirev in 1861 he turned seriously to composing. In 1871 he became professor of composition at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, retiring from the navy two years later. In 1883 he became assistant to Balakirev, who was director of the Imperial Chapel. He conducted the St. Petersburg Symphony Concerts, 1886–1900. His Synphony No. 1 (1865) and his symphonic poem Sadko (1867) were the first works in these forms by a Russian. In his oeuvre operas, often based on Russian history and legend, are extremely important. Notable among them are The Snow Maiden (1881, rev. 1884), based on the play by Ostrovsky; The Maid of Pskov (1873, rev. 1892; also known as Ivan the Terrible); Sadko (1895); Le Coq d'Or (The Golden Cockerel, posthumously performed 1909); and The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitzeh (1904), a Wagneresque quasireligious work that situates heaven and hell on earth. The best known of Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestral works is Scheherezade (1888), which was used by the Diaghilev ballet. It probably best exemplifies his romantic exoticism and mastery of orchestral color. Glazunov, Gretchaninov, and Stravinsky were among his many pupils. He also wrote a treatise on orchestration and an autobiography, My Musical Life (tr., 3d ed. 1942).

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