Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov Quotes

Photo of composer, Rimsky-Korsakov

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov Quotes

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was an outstanding composer of the late 1800s into the early 20th century. He is best known for his works Sheharazad and Symphonie Espaniol. His influence on composers of his time was significant. Throughout our present-day, he has been a considerable inspiration to Western music composers, mainly through his use of orchestration as it occurred in his compositions and through the book he wrote on orchestration. Rimsky-Korsakov’s influence also comes to our present time through Igor Stravinsky, as Rimsky-Korsakov was Stravinsky’s principal teacher.

Image: Photo of composer, Rimsky-Korsakov

“By force of matters purely musical, I turned out to be the head of the Belyayev circle as the head Belyayev, too, considered me, consulting me about everything and referring everyone to me as chief.”


“The opinion formed by both critics and the public, that the Capriccio is a magnificently orchestrated piece — is wrong. The Capriccio is a brilliant composition for the orchestra. The change of timbres, the felicitous choice of melodic designs and figuration patterns, exactly suiting each kind of instrument, brief virtuoso cadenzas for instruments solo, the rhythm of the percussion instruments, etc., constitute here the very essence of the composition and not its garb or orchestration. The Spanish themes, of dance character, furnished me with rich material for putting in use multiform orchestral effects. All in all, the Capriccio is undoubtedly a purely external piece, but vividly brilliant for all that. It was a little less successful in its third section (Alborada, in B-flat major), where the brasses somewhat drown the melodic designs of the woodwinds; but this is very easy to remedy if the conductor will pay attention to it and moderate the indications of the shades of force in the brass instruments by replacing the fortissimo by a simple forte.”


“Orchestration is part of the very soul of the work. A work is thought out in terms of the orchestra, certain tone-colors being inseparable from it in the mind of its creator and native to it from the hour of its birth.”


“I doubt if you would find anyone in the entire world more skeptical of everything supernatural, fantastic, phantasmal, or otherworldly than I, and yet, as an artist, it is just these things that I love most. And ritual? What could be more intolerable than a ritual? I feel positively embarrassed, as though I were acting out a Commedia when I attend them, and this goes even for funerals. Yet with what delight I’ve depicted rituals in my music! No – I firmly believe that art is essentially the most fascinating and intoxicating of lies!”

“Even before this I had known and worshipped his operas; but as editor of the scores in print I had to go through Glinka’s style and instrumentation to their last little note … And this was a beneficent discipline for me, leading me as it did to the path of modern music, after my vicissitudes with counterpoint and strict style.”

-Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1884-1908)

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Richard J. Chandler, BA, MA Bachelor of Arts-Music & Master of Arts-Psychology