Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov spent most of his boyhood in a military school -- a naval school, to be exact. Once in the navy, however, he seemed more inspired by music than by mastheads. While on his first tour, he wrote... [more]
Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov spent most of his boyhood in a military school -- a naval school, to be exact. Once in the navy, however, he seemed more inspired by music than by mastheads. While on his first tour, he wrote a symphony that was refined and performed less than one year after his return. The first symphony was only a hint of things to come, however; the Russian sailor was soon moving among the highest musical circles of the times. He was one of the "Mighty Handful" or "the Five," as they came to be known: the five most famous and powerful composers in all Russia, and perhaps all the world. These composers displayed a strong sense of Russian nationalism, drawing on their rich musical and cultural heritage and writing pieces that glorified it. Rimsky-Korsakov's transformation from sailor to composer was not as sudden or as random as it may seem. Ever since meeting the influential composer Mily Balakirev in 1861, Rimsky-Korsakov had studied music and leaned more and more toward a musical career. Balakirev was a well-known composer, but his most significant role was as the leader of the Five. He was Rimsky-Korsakov's teacher and mentor; much of his influence can be seen in earlier Rimsky-Korsakov compositions. With the support of Balakirev and of other colleagues such as Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov became a famous composer. He wrote the orchestral piece "Scheherazade," the opera "The Golden Cockerel," and many other operas and orchestral works. Besides being a talented composer, Rimsky-Korsakov was a great teacher, arranger, and theorist, who left his mark on generations to come. He became a professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatoire in 1871; many of the next generation of great Russian composers owe much of their training and style to him. One can hear Rimsky-Korsakov's echoes in the works of pupil Igor Stravinsky, or see his print as an editor and revisor in works by Alexander Borodin.