The Tale of Tsar Saltan: Suite from the Opera
by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
I. Tsar’s Departure and Farewell
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The lengthy full title of both the opera and the poem is The Tale of Tsar Saltan, of his Son the Renowned and Mighty Bogatyr Prince Gvidon Saltanovich and of the Beautiful Princess-Swan.
Note: The name “Saltan” is often erroneously rendered “Sultan”. Likewise, another mistranslation of the Russian title found in English makes this a “legend” rather than simply a “tale” or “fairytale”.
Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov
(Russian: Николай Андреевич Римский-Корсаков; Russian pronunciation: [nʲɪkəˌlaj ˌrʲim.skʲɪj ˈkorsəkəf]; 18 March [O.S. 6 March] 1844[a 1] – 21 June [O.S. 8 June] 1908) was a Russian composer, and a member of the group of composers known as The Five.[a 2] He was a master of orchestration. His best-known orchestral compositions—Capriccio Espagnol, the Russian Easter Festival Overture, and the symphonic suite Scheherazade—are staples of the classical music repertoire, along with suites and excerpts from some of his 15 operas.Scheherazade is an example of his frequent use of fairy tale and folk subjects.
Rimsky-Korsakov believed, as did fellow composer Mily Balakirev and critic Vladimir Stasov, in developing a nationalistic style of classical music. This style employed Russian folk song and lore along with exotic harmonic, melodic and rhythmic elements in a practice known as musical orientalism, and eschewed traditional Western compositional methods. However, Rimsky-Korsakov appreciated Western musical techniques after he became a professor of musical composition, harmony and orchestration at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in 1871. He undertook a rigorous three-year program of self-education and became a master of Western methods, incorporating them alongside the influences of Mikhail Glinka and fellow members of The Five. His techniques of composition and orchestration were further enriched by his exposure to the works of Richard Wagner.