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Waking up to Rimsky-Korsakov

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

“The boy is too shy. Maybe piano lessons would help.”

Little Nikolai did take piano lessons, though everyone said he played “too slow.” In truth, he preferred literature to music; especially stories about the sea. At age 12, Nikolai joined the Imperial Russian Navy, enrolling in the naval academy. As a midshipman, Nikolai sailed to New York Harbor, then down to Baltimore, to Washington, and to Brazil.

Who would have thought this young man would become one of Russia’s most important composers?

Tuesday, March 18 is the anniversary of the birth of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908), one of the “Russian Five,” or “the mighty handful,” as contemporaries liked to call these Russian nationalists. Where he lacked formal training, Rimsky made up for it with a phenomenal gift for melody and for orchestral color.

Join Carl Grapentine between 6:00 AM and 10:00 AM for some of the most popular works by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

One of the most celebrated orchestral recordings of all time continues to be Fritz Reiner’s recording of Rimsky’s Scheherezade with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on RCA. The concertmaster, who plays the part of the storyteller Scherezade is Sydney Harth. According to section mates, Harth had never played Scheherezade before. He ripped through the solos the first time; Dr. Reiner intervened, instilling in him the characteristic rubatos.

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