About this Recording

1001 Nights: Sinbad the Sailor and Other Stories

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 concerts.

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.

Keith Anderson

Philharmonia Orchestra

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.

Enrique Bátiz

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 acclaimed recordings.

Bernard Cribbins

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.

Close the window