The Russian composer Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov was born at Tikhvin on 18 March 1844 into an aristocratic family which did not approve of his becoming a musician. He was sent to study mathematics and navigation in St Petersburg and later joined the Russian Navy.
He took lessons in piano and composition from Feodor Kanille, who introduced him to music by Mikhail Glinka and Robert Schumann, and it was through Kanille that he met Mily Balakirev in 1861.
Balakirev encouraged Rimsky-Korsakov to compose, read and expand his knowledge, and introduced him to the other composers who, with Rimsky-Korsakov and Balakirev would become 'The Mighty Handful' or 'The Five' - César Cui, Modest Musorgsky and Alexander Borodin.
Famously, he wrote his first symphony whilst still active in the navy, and appeared on stage in naval uniform to acknowledge applause at the end of the work's first performance.
Later he became a professor of composition and orchestration at the St Petersburg Conservatory, but felt that he knew nothing and had to bluff his way through the classes. He began to study harmony and counterpoint at home so that, after a few years, he had become an excellent teacher, and is now acknowledged as a master of orchestration.
From around 1890, Rimsky Korsakov began to suffer from angina, and in 1905 he sided with conservatory students who took part in the February Revolution and was (temporarily) removed from his appointment. His work was also banned by the police. The stress from this episode accelerated his illness, and he died in Lyubensk on 21 June 1908.
A selection of M&V articles about Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
CD Spotlight. Absolutely Enthralling - Music for brass and organ, strongly recommended by Gerald Fenech. 'Barbara Bruns and the Thompson Brass Ensemble give dazzling performances full of compelling virtuosity and brilliantly executed musical stunts that never fail to surprise ...'
Ensemble. What was the Problem? - John Fulljames' visually engaging production of Rimsky-Korsakov's 'The Snow Maiden' at Opera North, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Vivid Performances - Derby Concert Orchestra's Christmas concert, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Musical Integrity - Sunwook Kim and the Hallé Orchestra play Rachmaninov, and impress Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Great Authenticity - Stravinsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Ravel for piano duet, recommended by Howard Smith. '... these performances will fulfill the highest technical expectations.'
Ensemble. Magnificently Sonorous - Brahms, Dvorák and Rimsky-Korsakov from the Derby Concert Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Truly Memorable - Power, technology and sex in Rimsky Korsakov's 'The Tsar's Bride', reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi
Ensemble. Virtuoso Dazzle - Andrei Korobeinikov and the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, Moscow, conducted by Nikolay Vinokurov, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Exhilaratingly Refreshing - Yutaka Sado and the BBC Philharmonic, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Mother Russia - Works by Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev, enjoyed by Suzanne Torrey
CD Spotlight. Bewitching Stuff - Symphonic poems for piano duet, recommended by Howard Smith. '... evocatively and thrillingly conveyed by Goldstone and Clemmow.'
Ensemble. Thrilling Singing - A Sibelius and Rimsky-Korsakov double bill, experienced by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Sensuous Depths - A selection of orchestral concerts at London's Royal Festival Hall, heard by Bill Newman
CD Spotlight. Tension and Mystery - Rimsky-Korsakov orchestral suites, heard by Gerald Fenech. '... the music is dear to the heart of these players ...'
Ensemble. Shh ... Out! - Malcolm Miller was at the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's 75th Anniversary Prom for an audience composition to remember ...
Persuasive Simplicity - Serghei Constantinov at Steinway Hall in London, reviewed by Bill Newman
CD Spotlight. Coruscating Brilliance - Spanish inspirations for two pianists, heard by Robert Anderson. '[A] joyous recital ...'
CD Spotlight. Striking Power - Leslie Howard plays Rachmaninov, heard by Howard Smith. '... a staggering technique.'
Ensemble. A Deep Impression - Rory Macdonald conducts the Hallé Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Vividly Characterised - Alexei Stepanov conducts the Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Historical Fantasy - Rimsky-Korsakov's 'The Tsar's Bride', reviewed by Robert Hugill
Ensemble. Orchestral Story-telling - Mike Wheeler listens to Strauss, Rimsky-Korsakov and Khachaturian from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
CD Spotlight. Lyrical Richness - Arensky Piano Trios, heard by Robert Anderson. 'The Rachmaninov Trio Moscow plays with obvious affection for the music and enviable skill.'
CD Spotlight. Delicate Mastery - Orchestral music by Glazunov, reviewed by Robert Anderson. '... dashingly done ...'
Ensemble. Great Fun - The Hallé Orchestra ends Nottingham's orchestral season, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Something Magical - Andris Nelsons conducts the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, heard by Mike Wheeler
Ensemble. Brisk Ebullience - Lawrence Budmen sends a second report from this summer's Tanglewood Festival
Ardent Charms - Bill Newman reviews two recitals by pianist Igor Tchetuev
Ensemble. A Delightful Afternoon - Lawrence Budmen listens to the Chameleon Musicians
Ensemble. A Real Barnburner - Another report from this summer's Tanglewood Festival, by Lawrence Budmen
Ensemble. A Bright Future - Malcolm Miller was at the final night of the 2008 BBC Proms in London
Record Box. Many Moods - Orchestral music by Glazunov, recommended by Robert Anderson
Ensemble. Poetic Touches - The Russian State Symphony Orchestra plays Musorgsky, Prokofiev and Rakhmaninov, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
Rui dos Reis - Jennifer Paull interviews and investigates the Portuguese composer-pianist
CD Spotlight. Enjoyable Colours - Russian music from Stokowski, reviewed by Patric Standford. 'The recordings do not show half a century of wear ...'
Ensemble. Dispiritingly Unmusical - The Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio on tour, reviewed by Mike Wheeler
CD Spotlight. Heightened Intimacy - Russian Romantic songs, enjoyed by Howard Smith. '... magically touching musicianship ...'
Ensemble. Opera to Gogol at - Rimsky-Korsakov's 'May Night' at Garsington Opera, reviewed by Roderic Dunnett
Provocative thoughts, from Patric Standford - Russophiles
CD Spotlight. Teddybears' picnic - Chamber music by Rimsky-Korsakov, reviewed by Robert Anderson. '... idiomatic writing that is a constant delight.'
Record box. Russian transcriptions - Basil Ramsey listens to music from the Jewish Folk Music Society
CD Spotlight. Tender longing - Daniil Shtoda sings Russian songs, reviewed by David Wilkins. '... wonderfully expressive ...'
Ensemble. Hour of Magic - Malcolm Miller is enthralled by seldom-heard East European music
CD Spotlight - Russia's roots. '... generally this is a recording well worth having.' The colourful world of Rimsky-Korsakov and Russian folk music, by Patric Standford