One area of classical music I always tell myself I would like to explore, and yet never quite do, is the operas of Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov. NRK was a brilliant orchestrator, a musical colorist who also had a fine gift of melody. His music teems with the sense of exotic color and adventure and emotion; his Scheherazade is one of the enduring works of orchestral magic.
I have read that NRK’s operas constitute a treasure trove of storytelling and music, all based on the legends and fairy tales of Russia. The operas are not often staged, however, mainly because Russian is not one of the more popular languages for singers to learn, which is likely a pity. But we do have orchestral suites derived from NRK’s operas, like this one, from an opera called…Christmas Eve. A light romp, this is not; the story involves a plot by the Devil to steal the moon, and it proceeds from there in what I am sure is delightfully operatic fashion.
This is an orchestral suite derived from the score to Christmas Eve, and if it doesn’t make use of any traditional musical trappings of this season — no jingle bells here! — it nevertheless creates that wonderful sense of NRK’s grand orchestrations and music that is full of rhythmic excitement and emotion.