Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
Quintet in B flat for piano and winds (1876)
for piano, flute, clarinet, horn and bassoon

I - Allegro con brio; II - Andante - Fughetta - Andante; III - Rondo: Allegretto

Rimsky-Korsakov did not begin his career as a professional musician, but instead followed his older brother into the navy. Nevertheless, he kept his musical interests alive: he continued to take piano lessons and began composing Russia's first symphony while on duty at Gravesend. This work led to his being offered the post of Professor of Composition at Conservatory of St Petersburg in 1871 where his pupils included Stravinsky and Prokofiev. He ranked highly in the group of Russian composers known as The Five, the other members being Borodin, Balakirev, Mussorgsky and Cui, and his more popular works include operas such as Snow Maiden and The Golden Cockerel and the orchestral show-piece Scheherazade.

The quintet for piano and winds was composed in 1876, and Rimsky-Korsakov described the first movement as being in the classical style of Beethoven, probably meaning that it is in sonata form with two contrasting groups of themes that are symphonically developed. The second movement contains a fugato for the wind instruments in F minor, sandwiched between the F major Andante where the wind themes are contrasted with sections of free and flowing accompaniment from the piano. The last movement, in rondo form, has an interesting middle section in which short cadenzas are written for the horn, flute and clarinet, each interrupted by the bassoon's distinctive octave leaps which persist from the beginning of the movement. This is followed by a piano cadenza, after which the first subject finally returns in its original form. DPS

© 2000 The Arethusa Ensemble