Happy birthday, Nikolai

March 18, 2018

Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) composed the music for The Tale of Tsar Saltan, of his Son the Renowned and Mighty Bogatyr Prince Gvidon Saltanovich and of the Beautiful Princess-Swan in 1899-1900. The libretto was based on a poem with same unwieldy title by Aleksandr Pushkin. The plot involves, among other things, a rather gullible tsar, his wife the tsarina, her two jealous and vengeful older sisters, an enchantress bent on breaking up the tsar’s marriage, a magical squirrel, a swan who is really a princess in disguise, and a homesick prince whom the swan magically transforms into a bumblebee so he can go pay a little visit to his estranged father. One can’t help wondering if Nikolai Andreyevich had any inkling that the brief orchestral interlude evoking the bumblebee’s flight would become one of his greatest hits. Here it is in its piano version, played by Yuja Wang.

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