Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (1884 - 1908)
Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov was born in a small provincial town called Tikhvin , 200 km from St.Petersburg.
His family was unusual by the age of its members. At the time of his birth his father was 60, his mother 42 and his brother was already a naval officer and was 22 years old.
In Tikhvin little Nika learned to play the piano. His parents noticed, that he made good progress and had a perfect ear. But they did not pay attention to this. At his parents will, Nika, when he was twelve, entered the Naval School at St.Petersburg to become a mariner following his brother.
From that time he began to go to operas, symphonic concerts and acquired a passion for music. His new music teacher Canille noticed the musical gift of his pupil and told him he should try to compose music himself. Canille explained the general rules of musical composition, set him homework and soon introduced to the composer Mily Balakirev who was the head of a St.Petersburg musical circle. During the last year of his studies at the Naval School (1861/62) Nikolay began to compose a symphony. He was happy and dreamed to become a composer.
But his mother and brother (his father died in March 1862) convinced him that a musical career would not ensure a sufficient income, and therefore he should become a naval officer. In order to do this, he had to embark on a round-the-world trip. In October 1862 Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov set off from Kronstadt as a gardemarine on the clipper "Almaz".
The young composer agreed with his parents hoping he would be able to compose on the ship. But the atmosphere there was not suitable to write musical compositions. Official duties did not allow any spare time for music. There was no piano or any other musical instrument on the ship. Not one of the crew took any interest in music. Nevertheless, during the first months of the cruise, mainly during a long stop in England (winter 1862/63) he composed the Andante for his symphony. But later, little by little, his passion for music died down. He thought that music was no longer a part of his life. The cruise lasted 2 years and 8 months. During this time Rimsky- Korsakov visited Germany, England, The United States of America (where he went on a trip to the Niagara Falls), Brazil, France and Spain. He saw many different aspects of nature, particularly of the Northern, Equatorial and Southern seas, the stormy and calm ocean, the starry sky of the Southern hemisphere.
All these natural pictures left striking impressions in his memory. Later he interpreted in his music, with a great talent,these impressions, as well as the natural phenomenon of the North of Russia. He created beautiful musical pictures of the sea (e.g. in "Sadko", "The Tale of the Tsar Saltan", "Sheherazade"); of the forest with its sounds (e.g. in "The Snowmaiden", "The Legend of the Invisible Town Kitez"); of the air and sky (e.g. in "The Christmas Night", "Kashtshey Immortal").
After Rimsky-Korsakov came back to Russia (May,1865), he began to work for the Coast Service in St.Petersburg and intended to enter the Naval Academy. But in St.Petersburg he met his former musical friends, who forced him to return to music and to complete his symphony. In the same year, on December 19th , the N.Rimsky-Korsakov's first symphony was performed for the first time in a concert with Mily Balakirev as the conductor, and it was a great success. The audience were astonished, when they saw that the author was a very young naval officer. So his musical career began. Still he had to earn a living and thus only gave up active naval service eight years later.
Rimsky-Korsakov's musical activity did not only include the creative work. From 1871, when he was twenty seven, and until the end of his life, he was a professor of the St.Petersburg Conservatoire; he held a civilian post of the inspector of the Naval Brass-bands for ten years (1873-1883); worked as the Director of the Free Music School for seven years (1874-1881); was the Director' s Assistant of the Imperial Capella for ten years (1883-1893); conducted symphonic concerts for more than thirty years (1874-1907) at St.Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, Brussels and Paris. He died in his own country-seat, Loubensk when he was sixty four.