Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolai

1844 - 1908

Russian composer known for his colorful and brilliant orchestration as in his symphonic suit 'Sheherazade' (based on 'Arabian Nights').

Rimsky-Korsakov was born in Tikhvin, near Novgorod. He attended the Naval Academy in St. Petersburg. In 1862 he sailed on a three-year naval cruise, during which he visited the United States. He completed his first symphony aboard ship.

In 1871 Rimsky-Korsakov left the navy and joined the faculty of the St. Petersburg Conservatory. He taught several students who achieved fame as composers, including Sergei Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky.

Rimsky-Korsakov based many of his 15 operas on Russian history and folklore.

He also edited and revised compositions that his friend Alexander Borodin had left unfinished when he died.


Mussorgsky, M. Petrovich

1839 - 1881

Russian composer known for his realism in his dramatic opera 'Boris Godunov. He emphasized that speech is made more poignant by the accompanying music.

Mussorgsky received his first composition lessons from Mily Balakirev in 1857. He held a series of government jobs, but his worsening alcoholism eventually made him unemployable. His personal decline was accompanied by maturity as a composer, and he wrote his major works, including the symphonic poem "Night on Bald Mountain", the great opera "Boris Godunov", and the famous piano cycle "Pictures at an Exhibition".

His 65 songs describe vivid scenes of Russian life. After Mussorgsky's death, his works were published in drastically edited form, purged of their distinctive starkness and unorthodox harmonies; the original versions were made available in 1928.