Yondani Butt: Rimsky-Korsakov Fairy Tale Op. 29, London Symphony

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Performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Yondani Butt.

Fairy Tale (skazka), Op. 29 by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, composed in 1880-81. It is a symphonic poem based on these lines from Pushkin's prologue to "Ruslan and Lyudmila": "One fairy-tale I do recall, I'll tell now to one and all."

From Rimsky-Korsakov's autobiography "My Musical Life", pages 245-46:

"While making up the programs of the Russian Musical Society, [Eduard] Napravnik addressed an inquiry to me, as to which of my compositions I should like to hear performed at these concerts. I indicated the recently written "Skazka" (Fairy-tale) and gave the score to Napravnik. Shortly afterwards the latter proposed that I conduct the piece myself. I consented. At one of the earlier concerts of that season the "Fairy-tale" was placed on the program. I conducted. The performance would have been quite successful if the concert-master, Pikkel (then growing morbidly nervous) , had not jumped out, without any reason, at the entrance of the violins divisi towards the end of the piece and by so doing confused the other violinists. However, the violins speedily recovered, and the mistake had hardly been noticed by the audience. Save for this episode, I was pleased with the performance as well as with the piece itself, which sounded colourful and brilliant. In general "Skazka" undoubtedly recalls in style "Snyegoorochka", as having been composed simultaneously with it.
Strange to this day hearers grasp with difficulty the true meaning of the "Fairy-tale's" program: they seek in it a chained up tom-cat walking around an oak tree, and all the fairy tale episodes which were jotted down by Pushkin in the prologue to his "Ruslan and Lyudmila" and which served as the starting point for my Fairy-tale. In his brief enumeration of the elements of the Russian fairy-tale epos that make up the stories of the miraculous tom-cat, Pushkin says

"One fairy tale I do recall, I'll tell it now to one and all,"

and then narrates the fairy-tale of "Ruslan and Lyudmila." But I narrate my own musical fairy-tale. By my very narrating the musical fairy-tale and quoting Pushkin's prologue I show that my fairy-tale is, in the first place, Russian, and secondly, magical, as if it were one of the miraculous tom-cat's fairy-tales that I had overheard and retained in my memory. Yet I had not at all set out to depict in it all that Pushkin had jotted down in the prologue, any more than he puts all of it into his fairy-tale of "Ruslan." Let everyone seek in my fairy-tale only the episodes that may appear before his imagination, but let him not insist that I include everything enumerated in Pushkin's prologue. The endeavor to discern in my fairy-tale the tom cat that had related this same fairy-tale is groundless, to say the least. The two above-quoted lines of Pushkin are printed in italics in the program of my "Fairy-tale", to distinguish them from the other verses and direct thereby the auditor's attention to them. But this has been understood neither by the audiences nor the critics, who have interpreted my "Skazka" in all ways crooked and awry and who, in my time, as usual, of course, did not approve of it. On the whole, however, the "Fairy-tale" won sufficient success with the public."