Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: composer

Born: March 18, 1844
Died: June 21, 1908

As a student in school, Nikolai Rimsky struggled to learn. But as student of music, he excelled.

A pupil like myself had to submit to Balakirev a proposed composition in its embryo, say, even the first four or eight bars. Balakirev would immediately make corrections, indicating how to recast such an embryo; he would criticize it, would praise and extol the first two bars, but would censure the next two, ridicule
them, and try hard to make the author disgusted with them. Vivacity of composition and fertility were not at all in favor, frequent recasting was demanded, and the composition was extended over a long space of time under the cold control of self-criticism.

As a teacher, Rimsky was able to reach out to his pupils in that same way others had helped him. His famous student, Igor Stravinsky, remembered: I worked with him in this way. He would give me some pages of the piano score of a new opera he had just finished (Pan Voyevoda), which I was to orchestrate. When I had orchestrated a section, he would show me his own instrumentation of the same passage. I had to compare them, and then he would ask me to explain why he had done it differently. Whenever I was unable to do so, it was he who explained.