Mr. Peabody Says:
The melodies in the overture are largely from the Russian Orthodox liturgy. Rimsky-Korsakov had always been interested in liturgical themes and music. The piece also appealed to the emotions of Russians because of its expression of the Easter Holiday, the high point of the liturgical calendar. Mostly it’s just a fun piece.
It was dedicated to the memories of Modest Mussorgsky and Alexander Borodin, two members of the group of composers known in English as “The Five”. It is the last of what many call his three most exceptionally brilliant orchestral works, preceded by Capriccio Espagnol and Scheherazade. The work received its premiere at a Russian symphony concert in St. Petersburg in late December 1888.
The Russian Easter Festival Overture is mainly in sonata allegro form, with a lengthy introduction at the beginning. Throughout the piece, there are a number of prominent solo sections, featuring violin, cello, trombone, clarinet, and flute.
The opening section is written in 5/2 2 time, and is one of the more famous works for orchestra in quintuple meter. The final section of the piece is notated in 2/1 time, making occasional use of 3/1.
3 flutes (1 doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in C, 2 bassoons
4 horns in F, 2 trumpets in Bb, 3 trombones, tuba
3 timpani tuned to A, D and G, glockenspiel, triangle, cymbals, bass drum, tam-tam, harp