Happy birthday, Nikolai

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 the same unwieldy title by Aleksandr Pushkin. The plot involves a rather gullible tsar, his wife the tsarina, her two jealous and vengeful 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.

3 Responses to Happy birthday, Nikolai

  1. Thanks for the background on the Bumblebee piece — new to me.

    Nikolai apparently hated pianists. 🙂

    As one who has beat up on the 88’s all my life, this piece has always fascinated me, but never so much as watching hyperspeed gal play it. Wow.

    As kids, we used to put the roll for Flight on grandmother’s player piano and crank the speed up to full, and I don’t think it was as fast as this performance. (It was an electric player piano, but also had the footpedals, and you really had to step lively to get a roll to play on highest speed.) (I wonder whatever happened to that piano and all the many rolls.)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Heltau says:

    My fingers hurt just watching her play.
    It’s a wonder it didn’t turn into the flame of the Bumblebee.

    Liked by 2 people

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