Relayed from the National Museum of Wales
National Orchestra of Wales
(Cerddorfa Genedlaethol Cymru)
Like more than one of his gifted compatriots, Rimsky-Korsakov began his career as a musician from the amateur's point of view. Born in that class of Russian society whose sons have a choice of only two careers, he was a sailor until his thirtieth year. Even after his fine musicianship had earned him the appointment of Professor of Composition in the Petrograd Conservatoire, he carried on its duties for some time without relinquishing his rank on the active list of the Navy. That there was nothing amateurish in his musical equipment is by now very clearly recognized. He is known as one of the most brilliant members of the modern Russian school, whose work combines something of Eastern gorgeousness with the sombre traits of the Slav character.
In this piece he has given us a sparkling study in the vivacious Spanish manner. Most of the movements are in Spanish dance rhythms, with characteristic names. The first is an Alborada, with a boisterous theme which the violins begin in unison. It is followed by a theme, announced by the horns, on which a short series of variations is built, and thereafter the first Alborada reappears in an altered guise, with different orchestration, but with all the same strenuous energy which characterized its first appearance.
The fourth movement is called 'Sceno e canto gitano.' It begins with a series of elaborate Cadenzas. Horns and trumpets together play the first one, to be followed in turn by solo violin, flute, clarinet and harp, after which the movement pursues its somewhat wayward and capricious course, the themes being mainly those of which we have heard hints in the Cadenzas.
The fifth and last movement is a Fandango asturiano, of which the sturdily rhythmic tune is first presented by woodwinds and violins in unison; a short Coda, working up to a boisterous, hurrying close, is founded on the tune which we heard first in the opening Alborada.