1867: Rimsky-Korsakov: Fantasia on Serbian Themes, age 33

Mr. Peabody Says:

There are no movements for this fantasia, but there are very clear sections, and I wrote down those sections. Is someone asks, I may add time stamps for each one. For this one I just preferred to listen without much thought. It’s not well known, so it was hard to find info, and to get the instruments I had to download the score.

There is an interval that I call a “fat tone” which is like an extra long step. Musicians often call this interval a “minor 3rd”, but it’s a problem because it can also be something like F to G#, which sounds like a minor 3rd but is an augmented 2nd. These terms are a gigantic headache because they have nothing to do with what we hear, which is simply a step and a half, or one and a half steps. It’s a sound-distance. But this interval is all over the place in Russian music, so you hear it hear, and in The Five, and Tchaikovsky. It’s prominent in this piece.

Yondani Butt

  • Andantino
  • Vivo
  • Andantino
  • Tempo  I
  • Poco piu mosso
  • Tempo I


  • piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons
  • 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones
  • 3 timpani, triangle, tambourine, cymbals, bass drum
  • strings

The Fantasy was actually Balakirev’s idea:

Balakirev was a rather overbearing man who continually tried to boss around his more talented friends. Over the years he nearly drove Tchaikovsky nuts with his demands, criticisms and opinions. Sometimes his ideas, however, were good. He requested the piece for a concert of pan-Slavonic music he had planned for May 24, 1867, programming his Czech Overture on the same billing, and he conducted the first performed of this piece in May of that year. It is also known as the Serbian Fantasy.

Balakirev wrote the themes:

He produced the Serbian themes for Rimsky-Korsakov to use in his composition. Rimsky-Korsakov wrote the Fantasy, because he liked the themes themselves, and not for nationalistic reasons. Regardless, Balakirev liked the piece, which Rimsky-Korsakov had written rapidly.

Tchaikovsky’s review:

He reviewed the fantasy and also mentioned Rimsky-Korsakov’s 1st symphony, which The Five were hugely enthusiastic about.


In 1887 Rimsky-Korsakov revised the piece to prepare it for a new edition.

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