1867: Rimsky Korsakov: Sadko, Musical Picture, age 23

Mr. Peabody Says:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Mr-Peabody2-2.jpg

This started as something like a tone poem. Rimsky-Korsakov revised it twice, then wrote an opera. “The Song of India” became one of the most famous melodies ever written. Most people have no idea that it came from Sadko, or that it’s real name is “Song of the Indian Guest”. This was news to me.

David Zinman/Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra


  • piccolo, 3 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons
  • 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba
  • timpani, cymbals, bass drum, tam-tam
  • harp
  • strings

The Song of India

“The Song of India” is from the opera that Rimsky-Korsakov wrote later, and it became one of the most famous melodies of all time.

The story:

A merchant and gusli musician from Novgorod is transported to the realm of the Sea King. There, he is to provide music to accompany the dance at the marriage of the King’s daughter. The dancing grows so frenzied that the surface of the sea billows and surges, threatening to founder the ships on it. To calm the sea, Sadko smashes his gusli. The storm dissipates and he reappears on the shore.

A “Gusli” is the oldest East Slavic multi-string plucked instrument, belonging to the zither family, and it’s important to the story of Sadko, which became an opera by Rimsky-Korsakov. But these 11 minutes of music,came first.

Leave a Reply