Nikolai Rimsky-korsakov (1844-1908)

Episodes

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01From Five To One20160912

If Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov is remembered for anything it's his endlessly reworked showstopper 'The Flight of the Bumble Bee' trotted out by every instrumental virtuoso under the sun just to show how nimble his or her finger-work might be. And if there's any exploration beyond that it tends to focus on his early years as a member of 'The Five', a mighty coalition of Russian composers intent on forging a new path for their national culture.

But thanks to a memorable personal encounter Rimsky-Korsakov's later story is quite different. In his 40s he met his 'Boswell', a biographer who came to admire his subject every bit as much as Dr Johnson's personal chronicler.

This week Donald Macleod explores Rimsky-Korsakov's final years through the lens of that man: Vasily Vasilyevitch Yastrebtsev. The two men mirror each other. Yastrebtsev is a natural musician, halted in his ambition by laziness; Rimsky-Korsakov launches his career as an amateur, but lifting himself to the highest musical peaks through sheer dedication.

But during the week we also discover a man plagued by doubt and prone to revision. Despite that, his mastery of the orchestra and determination to find new ways of communicating drama through music are destined to leave an indelible mark on Russian musical history.

Fantasia on Serbian Themes

USSR State Academic Symphony Orchestra

Evgeny Svetlanov, conductor

Scheherazade (final movement)

New York Philharmonic

Glenn Dichterow, violin

Kurt Masur, conductor

Mlada (Act III Scene 4-5)

Vladimir Markov, tenor (Yaromir)

Great Choir of the All-Union Radio

Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra

Russian Easter Festival Overture

Seattle Symphony

Gerard Schwarz, conductor

The Beauty, Op 51 No 4

Alexey Martynov, tenor

Aristotel Konstantinidi, piano

Producer: Michael Surcombe.

Donald Macleod begins an exploration of Rimsky-Korsakov's final years.

02A Mania for Revision20160913

02A Mania for Revision20160913

Donald Macleod continues the story of Rimsky-Korsakov's final decades, with the help of a contemporary biography written by one of the composer's most ardent fans and collaborators. Crippling doubts plague the composer as he sets about revising countless of his works. Therapy comes in the form of ambitious plan to write musical theory, and also in the sounds of Wagner whose radical operas inspire Rimsky-Korsakov to find new ways of presenting his own national stories on the stage.

The Maid of Pskov (Overture)

Moscow Symphony Orchestra

Igor Golovchin, conductor

May Night - Act 1 Scene 6 'Hopak Scene'

Nikolaï Rechetniak, baritone (Kalenik)

Sveshnikov Academic Choir

Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra

Andrey Chistiakov, conductor

Capriccio Espagnol: Scena e Canto Gitano

Anthony Goldstone, piano

Caroline Clemmow, piano

String Quartet in F (1st movement)

Rimsky-Korsakov Quartet

Symphonic Suite 'Antar' (2nd movement)

Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra

Dmitri Kitajenko, conductor

The Snow Maiden (Act 1 conclusion)

Valentina Sokolik, soprano (Snow Maiden)

Lidya Sakharenko, soprano (Kupava)

Anatoly Moksyakov, baritone (Mizgir)

Grand Choir of the USSR Radio and TV

Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus

Vladimir Fedoseyev, conductor

Producer: Michael Surcombe.

02A Mania for Revision20160913

How crippling doubts plagued Rimsky-Korsakov as he began revising countless works of his.

02A Mania For Revision20160913

How crippling doubts plagued Rimsky-Korsakov as he began revising countless works of his.

Donald Macleod continues the story of Rimsky-Korsakov's final decades, with the help of a contemporary biography written by one of the composer's most ardent fans and collaborators. Crippling doubts plague the composer as he sets about revising countless of his works. Therapy comes in the form of ambitious plan to write musical theory, and also in the sounds of Wagner whose radical operas inspire Rimsky-Korsakov to find new ways of presenting his own national stories on the stage.

The Maid of Pskov (Overture)

Moscow Symphony Orchestra

Igor Golovchin, conductor

May Night - Act 1 Scene 6 'Hopak Scene'

Nikolaï Rechetniak, baritone (Kalenik)

Sveshnikov Academic Choir

Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra

Andrey Chistiakov, conductor

Capriccio Espagnol: Scena e Canto Gitano

Anthony Goldstone, piano

Caroline Clemmow, piano

String Quartet in F (1st movement)

Rimsky-Korsakov Quartet

Symphonic Suite 'Antar' (2nd movement)

Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra

Dmitri Kitajenko, conductor

The Snow Maiden (Act 1 conclusion)

Valentina Sokolik, soprano (Snow Maiden)

Lidya Sakharenko, soprano (Kupava)

Anatoly Moksyakov, baritone (Mizgir)

Grand Choir of the USSR Radio and TV

Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus

Vladimir Fedoseyev, conductor

Producer: Michael Surcombe.

03Reinventing a Past20160914

03Reinventing a Past20160914

How much can you tell about the way someone walks? Today we find Rimsky-Korsakov adorning a jubilee concert with his music and adopting an unusually solemn gait, a suggestion perhaps that even in these final decades his was typically more fleet of foot?

His music is finding a new pace too, inspired by the wonderfully evocative 'bylinas' from Russian folklore. As Donald Macleod discovers, these were to prove vital ingredients for the composer's operas.

A Toast

Moscow Symphony Orchestra

Igor Golovschin, conductor

Bylina of Dobrynia Nikitich

Russian Folk Song Chorus

Valentina Leonov, soloist

A Sveshnikov, director

Sadko - Tableau 1, excerpt

Larissa Diadkova, mezzo-soprano (Nezhata

Kirov Opera Chorus and Orchestra

Valery Gergiev, conductor

By the Sea

Mikhail Lanskoy, baritone

Ilya Scheps, piano

Christmas Eve (Tableau 3)

Elena Zaremba, mezzo-soprano (Solokha)

Viatcheslav Vionarovski, tenor (Le Diable)

Viatcheslav Verestnikov, baritone (Le Maire)

Alexei Maslennikov, tenor (Le Sacristain)

Stanislav Souleimanov, bass (Tchoub)

Vladimir Bogatchov, tenor (Vakoula)

Yourlov Academic Chorus

Forum Theatre Orchestra

Mikhail Yurovski, conductor

Producer: Michael Surcombe.

03Reinventing a Past20160914

How Rimsky-Korsakov drew inspiration for his operas from a branch of Russian folklore.

03Reinventing A Past20160914

How Rimsky-Korsakov drew inspiration for his operas from a branch of Russian folklore.

How much can you tell about the way someone walks? Today we find Rimsky-Korsakov adorning a jubilee concert with his music and adopting an unusually solemn gait, a suggestion perhaps that even in these final decades his was typically more fleet of foot?

His music is finding a new pace too, inspired by the wonderfully evocative 'bylinas' from Russian folklore. As Donald Macleod discovers, these were to prove vital ingredients for the composer's operas.

A Toast

Moscow Symphony Orchestra

Igor Golovschin, conductor

Bylina of Dobrynia Nikitich

Russian Folk Song Chorus

Valentina Leonov, soloist

A Sveshnikov, director

Sadko - Tableau 1, excerpt

Larissa Diadkova, mezzo-soprano (Nezhata

Kirov Opera Chorus and Orchestra

Valery Gergiev, conductor

By the Sea

Mikhail Lanskoy, baritone

Ilya Scheps, piano

Christmas Eve (Tableau 3)

Elena Zaremba, mezzo-soprano (Solokha)

Viatcheslav Vionarovski, tenor (Le Diable)

Viatcheslav Verestnikov, baritone (Le Maire)

Alexei Maslennikov, tenor (Le Sacristain)

Stanislav Souleimanov, bass (Tchoub)

Vladimir Bogatchov, tenor (Vakoula)

Yourlov Academic Chorus

Forum Theatre Orchestra

Mikhail Yurovski, conductor

Producer: Michael Surcombe.

04Lightning Strikes20160915

04Lightning Strikes20160915

How the ancient Greek and Roman worlds provided inspiration for Rimsky-Korsakov's music.

04Lightning Strikes20160915

The ancient world provides inspiration for Rimsky-Korsakov's music, with trips to both the Greek and Roman worlds. For Rimsky-Korsakov it turns out to be a liberating experience, not least because his audience had so little knowledge of what music from classical times might have sounded like that he could do pretty much what he fancied. With Donald Macleod.

The Rainy Day has Waned, Op 51 No 5

Mikhail Lanskoy, baritone

Ilya Scheps, piano

From Homer

Moscow Academy of Choral Singing

Moscow Symphony Orchestra

Vladimir Ziva, conductor

Servilia: Tsveti moi!

Renée Fleming, soprano

Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre

Valery Gergiev, conductor

The Tsar's Bride (Act 3 Scene 4)

Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone (Graznoy

Kirov Orchestra

Valery Gergiev, conductor

Suite: The Tale of Tsar Saltan

Seattle Symphony

Gerard Schwarz, conductor

Producer: Michael Surcombe.

04Lightning Strikes20160915

The ancient world provides inspiration for Rimsky-Korsakov's music, with trips to both the Greek and Roman worlds. For Rimsky-Korsakov it turns out to be a liberating experience, not least because his audience had so little knowledge of what music from classical times might have sounded like that he could do pretty much what he fancied. With Donald Macleod.

The Rainy Day has Waned, Op 51 No 5

Mikhail Lanskoy, baritone

Ilya Scheps, piano

From Homer

Moscow Academy of Choral Singing

Moscow Symphony Orchestra

Vladimir Ziva, conductor

Servilia: Tsveti moi!

Renée Fleming, soprano

Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre

Valery Gergiev, conductor

The Tsar's Bride (Act 3 Scene 4)

Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone (Graznoy

Kirov Orchestra

Suite: The Tale of Tsar Saltan

Seattle Symphony

Gerard Schwarz, conductor

Producer: Michael Surcombe.

How the ancient Greek and Roman worlds provided inspiration for Rimsky-Korsakov's music.

05A Short Ride to Vesuvius20160916

05A Short Ride to Vesuvius20160916

How a ditty about a funicular ride up Mount Vesuvius inspired Rimsky-Korsakov.

05A Short Ride to Vesuvius20160916

Polish nursery tunes remembered from the cradle and a ditty about a funicular ride up Mount Vesuvius provide two unlikely sources of inspiration for the Russian composer in his final years. Plus we hear Rachmaninov's interpretation of Rimsky-Korsakov's most famous work refracted through the lens of the so-called 'reproducing piano', designed to preserve performances by the greats at the dawn of the recording age.

Neapolitan Song

Anthony Goldstone, piano

Caroline Clemmow, piano

Pan Voyevoda: Mazurka

Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra

Bystrík Režucha, conductor

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op 56 No 2

Natalia Gerassimova, soprano ,

Vladimir Skanavy, piano

Dubinushka, Op 62

USSR Radio Symphony Orchestra

Vladimir Fedoseyev, conductor

The Golden Cockerel: Suite

Russian National Orchestra

Mikhail Pletnev, conductor

Flight of the Bumble Bee

Sergei Rachmaninov, reproducing piano.

05A Short Ride To Vesuvius20160916

Polish nursery tunes remembered from the cradle and a ditty about a funicular ride up Mount Vesuvius provide two unlikely sources of inspiration for the Russian composer in his final years. Plus we hear Rachmaninov's interpretation of Rimsky-Korsakov's most famous work refracted through the lens of the so-called 'reproducing piano', designed to preserve performances by the greats at the dawn of the recording age.

Neapolitan Song

Anthony Goldstone, piano

Caroline Clemmow, piano

Pan Voyevoda: Mazurka

Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra

Bystrík Režucha, conductor

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op 56 No 2

Natalia Gerassimova, soprano ,

Vladimir Skanavy, piano

Dubinushka, Op 62

USSR Radio Symphony Orchestra

Vladimir Fedoseyev, conductor

The Golden Cockerel: Suite

Russian National Orchestra

Mikhail Pletnev, conductor

Flight of the Bumble Bee

Sergei Rachmaninov, reproducing piano.

How a ditty about a funicular ride up Mount Vesuvius inspired Rimsky-Korsakov.