Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (18 March 1844 – 21 June 1908) was a Russian composer who was a member of the "Five" group of composers. He was a virtuoso when it came to orchestration. Capriccio Espagnol, the Russian Easter Festival Overture, the symphonic suite Scheherazade, and suites and fragments from several of his 15 operas are all staples of classical music repertory. Scheherazade shows his utilization of fairy-tale and folk subjects. Rimsky-Korsakov, like fellow composer Mily Balakirev and critic Vladimir Stasov, believed in developing a nationalistic style of classical music. This style rejected typical Western compositional approaches and combined Russian folk songs and tales with exotic harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic components known as musical orientalism. After becoming a professor of musical composition, harmony, and orchestration at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in 1871, Rimsky-Korsakov developed an appreciation for Western musical techniques. He went through a three-year self-education program and became a master of Western methods, combining them with influences from Mikhail Glinka and other The Five members. Exposure to Richard Wagner's works expanded Rimsky-composition Korsakov's and orchestration techniques. Rimsky-Korsakov worked as a composer and teacher while also serving in the Russian military, first as a commander in the Imperial Russian Navy and then as the civilian Inspector of Naval Bands. He claimed that reading novels and hearing about his older brother's naval exploits sparked his interest in the ocean as a child. The musical tableau Sadko and Scheherazade, two of his best-known symphonic pieces, may have been influenced by his love of the water. As Inspector of Naval Bands, Rimsky-Korsakov improved his orchestration skills by expanding his understanding of woodwind and brass instruments. He passed on his knowledge to his students and through a textbook on orchestration written by his son-in-law Maximilian Steinberg after his death.
Rimsky-Korsakov composed a large number of original Russian nationalist works. During his decades as a teacher, he prepared compositions by The Five for performance, bringing them into the active classical repertory, and shaping a generation of future composers and musicians. As a result, Rimsky-Korsakov is regarded as "the major architect" of what is known as the "Russian style" in classical music. His effect on younger composers was especially significant. He acted as a bridge between Glinka's and The Five's autodidactism and the professionally trained composers who were the standard in Russia by the end of the nineteenth century. While Rimsky-style Korsakov was influenced by Glinka, Balakirev, Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt, and, for a brief period, Wagner, he "directly transmitted this style to two generations of Russian composers" and influenced non-Russian composers such as Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Paul Dukas, and Ottorino Respighi. Rimsky-Korsakov followed the Five's musical ideals. In the Russian Easter Festival Overture, he used Orthodox liturgical motifs, a folk song in Capriccio Espagnol, and orientalism in Scheherazade, perhaps his best-known composition. He was a prolific composer but also one who was always critical of himself. He reworked every orchestral arrangement, including his Third Symphony, some of them multiple times, such as Antar and Sadko. These alterations range from minor tempo, phrasing, and instrumental detail adjustments to total transposition and recomposition. "Study Liszt and Balakirev more closely, and you'll discover that a great deal in me is not mine," Rimsky-Korsakov told Vasily Yastrebtsev regarding the influences in his music. He was influenced by Balakirev's use of the whole tone scale, treatment of folk tunes, musical orientalism, and Liszt's harmonic daring. Even though he used Glinka and Liszt as harmonic models, his whole tone and octatonic scales demonstrate his uniqueness. These compositional approaches were created for his operas' "fantastic" portions, representing magical or supernatural characters and happenings.
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