Russian composer; one of the group of nationalist composers called The Mighty Five. He prepared himself for a naval career, but after meeting Balakirev in 1861 he turned seriously to composing.
In 1871 he became professor of composition at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, retiring from the navy two years later. In 1883 he became assistant to Balakirev, who was director of the Imperial Chapel. He conducted the St. Petersburg Symphony Concerts, 1886-1900.
Although his first symphony (1865) and his symphonic poem Sadko (1867) were the first works in these forms by a Russian, more important are his operas, notably The Snow Maiden (1881, rev.1884), based on the play by Ostrovski; The Maid of Pskov (1873, rev. 1892; also known as Ivan the Terrible); Sadko (1895); and Le Coq d'Or (The Golden Cockerel, posthumously performed 1909).
The best known of Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestral works is Scheherezade (1888), which was used by the Diaghilev ballet. It probably best exemplifies his romantic exoticism and mastery of orchestral colour. Glazunov, Gretchanin, and Stravinsky were among his pupils. He wrote a treatise on orchestration and an autobiography, My Musical Life.