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N.Rimsky-Korsakov: from Marine Officer to a Conservatory Professor

Nikolaj Andreevich Rimsky-Korsakov became a composer having almost no musical education. His family lived in a small town and, hoping that Nikolaj would become a marine officer, did not take his musical talent seriously.

He had accomplished his study course at the Marine Corps in St.Petersburg and even went to a trip around the World.

But also in St.Petersburg he met Balakirev who took the young composer as one of his students and made him a part of his circle, known as “The Mighty Handful”.

This fated meeting determined his path. Having almost no theoretical knowledge in music, but guided by Balakirev, young Nikolaj composed his first significant symphony works (Ouverture on Russian Themes, Symphonic Picture “Sadko”, “Antar” suite) as well as Art songs, including

- “The Rose and the Nightinale” - “Out Of My Tears” - “On the Hills of Georgia”

Due to the success of these works, in 1871 he was invited as a professor to the St. Petersburg Conservatory, aged just 28 and having almost no theoretical knowledge in music.

Later Rimsky-Korsakov wrote: “If only I had done a tiny bit of studying, if I had known a tiny bit more, than I knew in reality, it would have been clear for me, that I cannot and I have no right to take on the proposed job, that becoming a professor would be both stupid and dishonest from my part”.

He has compensated for his lack of knowledge very quickly and later even wrote books on harmony and orchestration.

Over 37 years at the Conservatorium he had taught over 200 composers including Glazunov, Lyadov, Arenskiy, Stravinsky, Gretchaninoff, Myaskovsky, Prokofiev and others.

Today St. Petersburg State Conservatorium is named after Rimsky-Korsakov.

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