“Flight of the Bumblebee” : Rimski Korsakov / Rachmaninoff
Bumblebee in My Living Room-
It all started with the simple question to my husband – what shall I learn for the 2012 / HAPPY NEW YEAR video? It has to be something short, flashy and very, very happy. Bumblebee, Robert said, without thinking twice.
“What a fresh idea!” I thought, and engaged on a YouTube journey. After listening to about 25 different Bumblebees, some in killer arrangements, I found one by Rachmaninov. And it was love at first site.
"Flight of the Bumblebee" is an orchestral interlude written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov for his opera, The Tale of Tsar Saltan, composed in 1899–1900. The piece closes Act III, Tableau 1, during which the magic Swan-Bird changes Prince Gvidon into an insect so that he can fly away to visit his father (who does not know that he is alive).
To make a long story short …
There were three sisters (a good one and two ugly ones, just like in Cinderella), and the two ugly sisters made the lives of the good sister and her son, Prince Gvidon, miserable. So…Prince Gvidon turns into a bumblebee (temporarily) and flies to his father’s house (kingdom)…and stings his lovely aunts on the face.
Rimski-Korsakov is a fantastic Symphonist, because the innovative instrumentation in his fairytales, operas and symphonies are very vivid. You can see the water, hear the storms…insects…bumblebees. Remember Scheherazade? This is his as well.
There were three composers/virtuoso pianists in the history of western music and Rachmaninov is one of them. He knew the craft of playing piano so well, that no matter what piece of music he touched, he turned it into pianistic gold. There is no inconvenient and unnecessary wrist turns, and as we pianists say, “everything is under the fingers”. He turned Bumblebee, a complicated and confusing piece of music that gets played on all possible instruments into a piece of cake – a virtuoso kind of cake.
I have bean married for almost 5 years now to Robert, who spent most of his adult life being a physician in the Air Force. When we got married, he knew I was a pianist but he had no idea what it meant. I do not think he would have ever anticipated listening to Flight of the Bumblebee in a high register and in the process of memorization (when every phrase gets repeated more than a few times) with the average daily practice time fluctuating between two and four hours.
I am glad he did not know it, or I am sure he would have thought twice before marrying me! But on the other hand, he gets the privilege of pointing out wrong notes to me – THE Artistic Director, and concert pianist! Who else in life gets such a treat? He has truly made it…