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Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov

Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov

Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (Russian: Nikolaj Andreevi Rimskij-Korsakov), also Nikolay, Nicolai, and Rimsky-Korsakoff, (18 March 1844 – 21 June 1908) was a Russian composer, and a member of the group of composers known as "The Five." Noted particularly for a predilection for folk and fairy-tale subjects as well as his extraordinary skill in orchestration, his best known orchestral compositions—Capriccio espagnol, Russian Easter Festival Overture, and the symphonic suite Scheherazade—are considered staples of the classical music repertoire, along with suites and excerpts from some of his 15 operas. Rimsky-Korsakov hewed initially to the beliefs of fellow composer Mily Balakirev and critic Vladimir Stasov in developing a nationalistic style of composition that utilized Russian folk song and lore while eschewing traditionally Western compositional methods. While Rimsky-Korsakov embraced folk song and subjects for the musical and programmatic content of his compositions throughout his career, he came to appreciate Western musical techniques after becoming a professor of harmony and orchestration at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1871. Putting himself through a rigorous three-year program of self-education in his initial years at the institute, he became a master of Western methods, which he incorporated into his own works alongside the influences of Mikhail Glinka and his fellow members of The Five. His techniques of composition and orchestration would become further enriched by his exposure to the works of Richard Wagner. Despite current controversy over his editing of the works of Modest Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov is now suggested in the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians as "the main architect" of what is now recognized by the public as the Russian style of composition. This is due not only to the considerable legacy of his own compositions, but also from his editing and preparing works by The Five for performance, which brought them into the active classical repertoire, as well as his shaping of younger composers and musicians during his decades as an educator. Gerald Abraham concludes in Grove that Rimsky-Korsakov's "own style, pellucid and based on the bold use of primary instrumental colors over a framework of clearly defined part-writing and harmony, was based on Glinka and Balakirev, Berlioz and Liszt. He transmitted it directly to two generations of Russian composers from Lyadov (b 1855) and Glazunov (b 1865) to Myaskovsky (b 1881), Stravinsky (b 1882) and Prokofiev (b 1891), all of whom were his pupils, and his general influence is evident, if less pronounced, in the orchestral music of Ravel, Debussy, Dukas and Respighi.

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