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Variations On A Theme By Glinka

Sheetmusic for concert band.
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Item no.: 100285
Composer: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Arranger: R. Mark Rogers (transcr.)
Grade: 3-4 / solo 5
Duration: 9:20
Publisher: Tierolff
Size: A4 21x29,7cm


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Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s "Variations on a Theme by Glinka" was written for solo oboe accompanied by wind band. This rather unusual combination is due to the fact that at the time of its composition, Rimsky-Korsakov held the title Inspector of Music Bands of the Navy Department in Tsarist Russia. The theme of the Variations, which Rimsky-Korsakov took from Glinka, is in a fact a folksong melody which is still occasionally heard in Russia.

In his autobiography, the composer wrote:
"During the years 1876-1878, I composed, sort of by the way, variations for oboe based on Glinka’s song "What, Beautiful Maiden", and concertos for clarinet and trombone, all of these accompanied by military band. These compositions were performed at the Kronstadt concerts under my direction. These works were written, first of all, to present something different and, secondly, to help me master the unfamiliar virtuoso style, with its solo, tutti, cadenzas, and so forth".

In composing this work, Rimsky-Korsakov relied on concepts which would later be formalized in "Principles of Orchestration" (published posthumously):

"Fate would have it that I received a thorough grounding in orchestration and acquired extensive experience in this field. In this first place I had the opportunity to hear all of my compositions performed by the exemplary orchestra of the St. Petersburg Opera. Secondly, being familiar with a variety of tendencies and fachions in musical taste, I wrote for instrumental forces of different sizes ranging from the most modest to the most complex. Thirdly, I spent several years as conductor of the navy military bands, which afforded me the opportunity to study the wind instruments".

This edition of "Variations on a Theme by Glinka" is based on the full score published by the Russian state publishers and a number of editions of the same piece for solo oboe and piano. It is unfortunate that Rimsky-Korsakov did not return to composing for wind band as he shows great understanding of the medium in these three works. Very little needed to be done to make the "Variations" suitable for performance by contemporary wind bands/wind orchestras, but the most significant changes are these: 1. Parts for saxophones (which were not part of the Russian naval bands) were created, playing only in the tutti sections. 2. Rehearsal numbers were added in such a way as to provide for the most efficient rehearsal possible.

About the composer:
Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov, (born March 6 [March 18, New Style], 1844, Tikhvin, near Novgorod, Russia - died June 8 [June 21], 1908, Lyubensk), was an internationally celebrated Russian composer, teacher and editor who was at his best in descriptive orchestrations suggesting a mood or a place. Among his most famous pupils are Alexander Glazunov, Ottorino Respighi, Sergei Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky.

An extremely good and successful transcription of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Concerto for Clarinet" has also been published at Tierolff.

This composition was created with the help of a contribution from the Music Investment Fund, an initiative of Buma/Stemra in cooperation with Voi©e, the Copyright Interests Federation and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in the Netherlands.

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