Music - Classical Released - Mar 29, 2013
. . . and then there’s Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
Rimsky-Korsakov was the spell-check for Russia’s Mighty Five. Being the most musically learned of the group, he spent thousands of hours completing and/or rewriting the scores of the other four.
Somehow, he found time to compose for himself. His most famous work is “Scheherazade” (rhymes with Sahara Bob), an orchestral suite based on “A Thousand And One Arabian Nights.” Like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, the music of “Scheherazade” has been over-exposed and therefore is often overlooked as the inspired music it is.
Of all the members of the Mighty Five Rimsky-Korsakov comes closest to Tchaikovsky’s sound world. Indeed, R-K’s Symphony No. 2 is often paired on CD with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2; and R-K’s “Capriccio Espagnol” makes an appropriate companion to Tchaikovsky’s “Capriccio Italian.”
Other favorites are “Russian Easter Overture”, “Christmas Eve Suite”, “Flight of the Bumble Bee”, and an opera, “Le coq d’or” (the golden cockerel).
“What a sad thing!” Tchaikovsky said of the Mighty Five. “With the exception of Rimsky-Korsakov, how many talents from whom it is hard to await anything serious? And isn’t this generally the way with us in Russia? Tremendous powers fatally hindered? One may expect that Russia will one day produce a whole galaxy of great talents, who will point out new paths for art.” (In the 20th-Century, this came partly true with the emergence of Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, and Stravinsky.)
On the list of 50 greatest composers, Rimsky-Korsakov is number 42.