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ClassicsOnline Home » ONE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS - SINBAD THE SAILOR AND OTHER STORIES
By John Leeman
By Lawrence Hansen
American Record Guide
Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov originally intended a naval career, following
the example of his elder brother. He showed some musical ability even as a very
small child, but at the age of fourteen 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
It was in 1861, the year before he completed his course at the Naval College,
that Rimsky-Korsakov met Balakirev, a musician who was to become an important
influence on him, as he was on the young army officers Mussorgsky and Cui, who
already formed part of his circle. The meeting had a far-reaching effect on
Rimsky-Korsakov's career, although in 1862 he set sail as a midshipman on a
cruise that was to keep him away from Russia for the next two and a half years.
On his return in 1865 Rimsky-Korsakov fell again under the influence of Balakirev.
On shore there was more time for music and the encouragement he needed for a
serious application to music that resulted in compositions in which he showed
his early ability as an orchestrator and his deftness in the use of Russian
themes, a gift that Balakirev did much to encourage as part of his campaign
to create a truly Russian form of music. In 1871 he took a position as professor
of instrumentation and composition at St Petersburg Conservatory and the following
year he resigned his commission in the navy, to become a civilian Inspector
of Naval Bands, a position created for him through personal and family influence.
Rimsky-Korsakov's subsequent career was a distinguished one. At the same time
he accepted the duty of completing and often orchestrating works left unfinished
by other composers of the new Russian School. As early as 1869 Dargomizhsky
had left him the task of completing the opera The Stone Guest. Twenty years
later he was to perform similar tasks for the music of Mussorgsky and for Borodin,
both of whom had left much undone at the time of their deaths. Relations with
Balakirev were not always easy and he was to become associated with Belyayev
and his schemes for the publication of new Russian music, a connection that
Balakirev could only see as disloyalty. There were other influences on his composition,
particularly with his first hearing of Wagner's Ring in 1889 and consequent
renewed attention to opera, after a brief period of depression and silence,
the result of illness and death in his family.
Rimsky-Korsakov was involved in the disturbances of 1905, when he sided with
the Conservatory students, joining with some colleagues in a public demand for
political reform, an action that brought his dismissal from the institution,
to which he was able to return when his pupil and friend Glazunov became director
the following year. He died in 1908.
The symphonic suite Sheherazade was composed by Rimsky-Korsakov in the winter
of 1887-888, taking as its literary inspiration excerpts from Tales of the Arabian
Nights, the fascinating series of stories told by the beautiful Sheherazade
in an effort to postpone her execution at the orders of her royal master. The
choice of subject exemplifies the attraction that the neighbouring cultures
of Islam has had over Russian composers in search of exotic material. In his
own description of Sheherazade Rimsky-Korsakov states that the sinuous oriental
solo violin melody is associated with the story-teller herself. The thematic
material, however, appears in different forms to convey differing moods and
pictures. Other ideas had been suggested by the sea, Sinbad's ship, Prince Kalender,
the Prince and Princess, the Festival in Baghdad and the ship dashed against
the rock with the bronze rider on it. The composer himself described the suite
as a kaleidoscope of fairy-tale images and designs of Oriental character. The
musical material, whatever its narrative significance, is, in any case, worked
out symphonically. His original intention had been to give the movements the
uninformative titles Prelude, Ballade, Adagio and Finale. He was later persuaded
to add programmatic titles, which he later regretted and withdrew.
The Philharmonia Orchestra was established in London in 1945 by Walter Legge
and gave its first concert under Sir Thomas Beecham in October of the same year.
Other conductors associated with the orchestra included Otto Klemperer and Carlo
Maria Giulini, with guest conductors that included Toscanini and Richard Strauss.
On the withdrawal of Walter Legge in 1964, the orchestra reformed itself as
the New Philharmonia, giving its first concert under this name with Klemperer.
Herbert von Karajan served as principal conductor from 1950 to 1959, followed
by Klemperer until his death in 1973. He was followed by Riccardo Muti unti11982,
Giuseppe Sinopoli from 1983 to 1994 and by Christoph von Dohnányi. In
1977 the orchestra resumed its original name and has continued to occupy an
important place in the concert life of London, with a residency at the Royal
Festival Hall since 1995, and in the recording studio.
The conductor Enrique Bátiz was born in Mexico City of mixed Polish
and Mexican descent and gave his first public performance as a pianist at the
age of five. He studied at the Mexico University Center and in Dallas, before
moving to the Juilliard School in New York, finding his vocation as a conductor
during further study at the Warsaw Conservatory. In 1971 Enrique Bátiz
founded the State of Mexico Symphony Orchestra, which he directed over a period
of eleven years and from 1982 until 1989 he was artistic director of the Mexico
City Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 1984 he was appointed principal guest conductor of the Royal Philharmonic
Orchestra and in 1990 he resumed his position as artistic director of the State
of Mexico Symphony Orchestra. His career has brought many international engagements
with major orchestras throughout the world and a series of distinguished and
Bernard Cribbins' voice is well-known through numerous BBC Radio plays, audiobooks
and commercials, and of course as all the voices of The Wombles. His television
work includes Dalziel and Pascoe and Hands Across the Sea, both for the BBC.
Theatre work includes Anything Goes in London and La Grande Magia at the Royal
National Theatre. He is known by generations of children as Mr Perks in the
classic children film The Railway Children. For Naxos Audiobooks he has recorded
Classic Fairy Tales.
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