FLIGHT OF THE BUMBLEBEE

from The Tale of Tsar Saltan: Act 3

by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was born in 1844 in Tikhvin, Russia and died in 1908 in Lyubensk, Russia.

Rimsky-Korsakov’s two passions were music and the sea. His started out as an officer in the Imperial Navy and he completed his first symphony during a three-year naval cruise.

Rimsky-Korsakov left the Imperial Navy and joined a group of composers known as “The Mighty Handful” or “The Five”. The members of this group founded a new school of composition, the Russian school. They are known for incorporating the exotic melodies, rhythms and tonality of Russian folk music into their works.

Rimsky-Korsakov differed from the other members of his group, who either deliberately rejected the rules of Western European music theory or were not interested in learning them. This was also because the music theory materials were only published in the German language and were not available in the Russian language. Rimsky-Korsakov taught himself to read German and then studied Western European music theory for many years. He became a master of orchestration, composing numerous masterworks of his own and orchestrating works by others, such as Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky.

Rimsky Korsakov wrote the opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan in 1899-1900. Flight of the Bumblebee is an orchestral interlude from the opera and describes the frenetic flying pattern of a bumblebee. Flight of the Bumblebee went on to become a stand-alone concert favourite. Its thrilling speed and use of the chromatic scale, a series of half-steps or semitones, makes it easily recognisable.

Step 1. Watch the video to learn about the Cornet

Step 2. Listen to the TSO recording of The Flight of the Bumblebee

Step 3. Answer 10 questions

Step 4. Download a Word Search

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