RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Snow Maiden / Golden Cockerel / Mlada

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Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (1844 - 1908)

Operatic Suites

Snow Maiden (Snegurochka): Suite

The Golden Cockerel (Le coq d'or): Suite Mlada: Suite

Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov originally intended a navalcareer, following the example of his elder brother. He showed some musical ability even asa very small child, but at the age of 14 he entered the Naval Cadet College in St.

Petersburg in pursuit of a more immediately attractive ambition. The city, in any case,offered musical opportunities. He continued piano lessons, but, more important than this,he was able to enjoy the opera and attend his first concerts.

It was in 1861, the year before he completed his course at theNaval College, that Rimsky-Korsakov met Balakirev, a musician who was to become animportant influence on him, as he was on the young army officers Mussorgsky and Cui, whoalready formed part of his circle. The meeting had a far-reaching effect onRimsky-Korsakov's career, although in 1862 he set sail as a midshipman on a cruise thatwas to keep him away from Russia for the next two and a half years.

On his return in 1865 Rimsky-Korsakov fell again under theinfluence of Balakirev. On shore there was more time for music and the encouragement heneeded for a serious application to music that resulted in compositions in which he showedhis early ability as an orchestrator and his deftness in the use of Russian themes, a giftthat Balakirev did much to encourage as part of his campaign to create a truly Russianform of music. In 1871 he took a position as professor of instrumentation and compositionat St. Petersburg Conservatory and the following year he resigned his Commission in thenavy, to become a civilian Inspector of Naval Bands, a position created for him throughpersonal and family influence.

Rimsky-Korsakov's subsequent career was a distinguished one. Atthe same time he accepted the duty of completing and often orchestrating works leftunfinished by other composers of the new Russian school. As early as 1869 Dargomizhsky hadleft him the task of completing the opera The StoneGuest. Twenty years later he was to perform similar tasks for the music ofMussorgsky and for Borodin, both of whom had left much undone at the time of their deaths.

Relations with Balakirev were not always easy andRimsky-Korsakov was to become associated with Belyayev and his schemes for the publicationof new Russian music, a connection that Balakirev could only see as disloyalty. There wereother influences on his composition, particularly with his first hearing of Wagner's Ringin 1889 and consequent renewed attention to opera, after a brief period of depression andsilence, the result of illness and death in his family.

Rimsky-Korsakov was involved in the troubles of 1905, when hesided with the Conservatory students, joining with some colleagues in a public demand forpolitical reform, an action that brought his dismissal from the institution, to which hewas able to return when his pupil and friend Glazunov became director the following year.

He died in 1908.

The opera Snow Maiden (Snegurochka) is based on a play byOstrovsky, itself following a Russian folk-tale. Rimsky-Korsakov was fascinated by thisvision of ancient Russian paganism and began work on the music during the summer of 1880,which he and his wife spent in a comfortable rented country-house at Stelovo, completing arough draft of the score by August, after a mere three months. The orchestration was madeduring the following months in St. Petersburg, where it was first performed a year later,on 10th February 1882.

The Snow Maiden, daughter ofSpring and Winter, is safe from the power of the sun, her father's old enemy, as long asshe lives without love. With snow running in her veins, this is not difficult, until herproud mother endows her with more nearly mortal characteristics. She chooses to live amortal life and a merchant, Mizgir, falls in love with her, abandoning his own beloved.

When the Snow Maiden returns his love, she falls victim to the sun, and Mizgir killshimself. In the music Rimsky-Korsakov draws widely on Russian folk-song, as, for example,in the Dance of the Birds in the Prologue. The suite includes a processional for thefairy-tale Tsar Byeryendyey and a dance ofthe clowns for his entertainment.

The Golden Cockerel,Rimsky-Korsakov's last opera, generally known under the French version of its title, wascompleted in September, 1907, but not staged until 1909. The work had aroused thesuspicion of the authorities in St. Petersburg, and the composer had, in any case, been onuneasy terms with the royal family. The Tsar himself had personally expressed hisdissatisfaction with the completed opera-ballet Mlada

and the opera Christmas Eve and had askedfor something more cheerful than the opera Sadko

for the Imperial Theatres.

To The Golden Cockerel

there was the added objection that the piece might be regarded as subversive, a satire onthe Tsar himself and his handling of the war with Japan. Based on a poem by Push kin, thestory tells of the miraculous golden cockerel, given by the Astrologer to old King Dodon,a bird that crows at any sign of danger. At the start of the opera, introduced by theAstrologer as a moral tale, the King and his council discuss how to deal with imminentforeign attack. The King's elder son suggests staying safe in the capital city to talk thematter over, while the enemy waits outside, a proposal that wins the applause of thecouncil. The King's younger son suggests that the army should be disbanded and thensuddenly mobilised again, to take the enemy by surprise, a plan that is also welcomed. TheAstrologer's answer is the golden cockerel, a bird to give warning of danger, a gift forwhich he will claim a future reward. In the end the King, defeated in battle, takes theexotic Queen Shemakha, as his wife. The Astrologer re-appears to claim payment, demandingthe hand of the Queen of Shemakhan. The King angrily refuses and strikes the magiciandead, to be killed in his turn by the golden cockerel.

Important themes of the opera include the melody of the goldencockerel and the more exotic theme associated with the Queen, who later is to test theKing's manliness in ridiculous fashion by forcing him to dance, and to return with him inprocessional triumph to his palace. The Wedding March and the Introduction to the operawere first performed in a concert in St. Petersburg in February, 1908, in a programme thatincluded the first performance of Faun and Shepherdess by Rimsky-Korsakov's pupil IgorStravinsky. The opera was staged only after the composer's death, in Moscow on 7th October1909.

The opera Mlada

was written in 1889 and 1890 and first staged in St. Petersburg on 1st November 1892. Thelibretto was extended and developed by Rimsky-Korsakov from an earlier collaborativecomposition, an opera-ballet, tackled together with Borodin, Mussorgsky, Cui and Minkus in1872. Here again the composer returns to ancient pagan Russian legend in a work of someextravagance. Mlada herself, a dream-figure, is betrothed to Yaromir, but at her weddingis murdered through a poisoned ring, given her by Voyslava, daughter of a prince whowishes to bring about Yaromir's downfall, a devotee of the infernal goddess Morena. Theintervention of the spectral Mlada prevents the embraces of Yaromir and Voyslava, who iseventually killed by the man she had hoped to deceive and claimed by
Item number 8550486
Barcode 4891030504868
Release date 12/01/1999
Category Romantic
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolay Andreyevich
Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolay Andreyevich
Conductors Johanos, Donald
Johanos, Donald
Orchestras Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Producers Kopernicky, Karol
Kopernicky, Karol
Disc: 1
Mlada Suite
1 Introduction
2 Danse des oiseaux (Dance of the Birds)
3 Cortege
4 Danse des bouffons (Dance of the Clowns)
5 Roi Dodon dans son palais (King Dodon in his Palac
6 Roi Dodon dans au champs de bataille (King Dodon o
7 Roi Dodon avec la reine Shemakha (King Dodon with
8 Mariage et fin lamentable du roi Dodon (Marriage F
9 Introduction
10 Redowa
11 Lithunian Dance
12 Indian Dance
13 Cortege
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