Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolai Andreyevich

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(18441908), prominent Russian composer who contributed to the formation of a Russian national music in the nineteenth century.

Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov, a naval officer by training, came to study professionally as a member of Mily Balakirev's amateur circle of composers ("Mighty Handful"). An active composer under Balakirev's guidance since 1861, he became a professor of composition and instrumentation at the St. Petersburg conservatory ten years later. Rimsky-Korsakov is regarded as one of the most significant composers and musicians of Russia in the nineteenth century.

Together with Balakirev and Alexander Borodin, who numbered among his closest creative partners in the 1860s, Rimsky-Korsakov developed a specific Russian idiom in orchestral music. As an opera composer, although he wrote a few historical operas, Rimsky-Korsakov especially stands for the Russian fairy and magic opera, the genre of which he brought to a culmination. Of high though not undisputed merit were the completions, revisions, and instrumentations of opera torsos of Borodin and Musorgsky, even if Rimsky-Korsakov partly neglected the composers' original intentions. Finally, he made significant contributions to musical education. Not only did his textbook of harmony become the widely acknowledged standard in Russia, but he also acted as a teacher and example for outstanding Russian composers. His support of students in the Revolution of 1905 (leading to his dismissal as professor) and his opera "The Golden Cockerel" (1907), which was condemed by censorship, because it could be interpreted as criticism of tsarist rule, conributed to his renown and reputation as an artist with political revolutionary leanings. Furthermore, as one of the masters of Russian national music in the nineteenth century, he achieved enormous importance and influence in the cultural history of the Soviet Union, particularly since the cultural changes toward Great Russian patriotism under Stalin.

See also: mighty handful; music; nationalism in the arts


Seaman, Gerald R. (1988). Nikolai Andreevich Rimsky-Korsakov: A Guide to Research. New York: Garland.

Matthias Stadelmann

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