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Symphony in C

Performing at Rutgers-Camden
Center for the Arts

Mailing Address:
PO Box 8610
Collingswood, NJ  08108

Administrative and Box Office:
576 Haddon Avenue
Collingswood, NJ 08108
Telephone: (856) 240-1503
Facsimile: (856) 240-1519

Rossen Milanov, Music Director
Pamela Brant, President
Daniel Dorff, Composer-in-Residence

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, continued

Balakirev encouraged him to compose and taught him when he was not at sea. (A fictionalized episode of Rimsky-Korsakov's navy service forms the plot of the motion picture Song of Scheherazade (1947), the musical score adapted by Miklós Rózsa.) Through Balakirev he also met the other composers of the group that were to become known as "The Mighty Handful" (better known in English-speaking countries as "The Five"). While in the navy (partly on a world cruise), Rimsky-Korsakov completed his first symphony (1861-1865). This is sometimes claimed to be the first symphony by a Russian, but Anton Rubinstein composed his own first symphony in 1850. Before resigning his commission in 1873, Rimsky-Korsakov also completed the first version of his well known orchestral piece Sadko (1867) and the opera The Maid of Pskov (1872). These three are among several early works which the composer revised later in life.

In 1871, despite being largely group- and self-educated within The Five rather than being conservatory-trained, Rimsky-Korsakov became professor of composition and orchestration at the St Petersburg Conservatory. The next year he married Nadezhda Nikolayevna Purgol'd (1848-1919), who was also a pianist and composer. During his first few years at the Conservatory, Rimsky-Korsakov assiduously studied harmony and counterpoint in order to make up for the lack of such thorough training during his years with The Five.

In 1883 Rimsky-Korsakov worked under Balakirev in the Court Chapel as a deputy. This post gave him the chance to study Russian Orthodox church music. He worked there until 1894. He also became a conductor, leading symphony concerts sponsored by Mitrofan Belyayev (M. P. Belaieff), as well as some programs abroad.

In 1905 Rimsky-Korsakov was removed from his professorship in St Petersburg owing to his expressing some political views of which the authorities disapproved. 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 Alexander Nevsky Monastery in St. Petersburg. His widow Nadezhda spent the rest of her life preserving the composer's legacy.

The Rimsky-Korsakovs had seven children: Mikhail (b.1873), Sofia (b.1875), Andrey (1878-1940), Vladimir (b.1882), Nadezhda (b.1884), Margarita (1888-1893), and Slavchik (1889-1890). Their daughter Nadezhda married the Russian composer Maximilian Steinberg in 1908. Andrey was a musicologist who wrote a multi-volume study of his father's life and work, which included a chapter devoted to his mother, Nadezhda. A nephew, Georgy Mikhaylovich Rimsky-Korsakov (1901-1965), was also a composer.