Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Russian Easter Festival Overture (Svetlïy pazdnik), for orchestra, Op. 36

    Description by Chris Boyes

    In the summer of 1888, Rimsky-Korsakov completed the orchestration of the Russian Easter Overture, and he finished another of his major works, Scheherezade. The Russian Easter Overture was often regarded by the composer as "The Bright Holiday," which was a popular Russian name for Easter. The Russian Easter Overture is based on themes from the obikhod, which is a printed collection of the most important and most frequently used canticles of the Russian Orthodox Church. This volume represented the first music ever printed in Russia.

    The overture begins with a long introduction of a very slow tempo. Rimsky-Korsakov wrote that this opening section of the piece was inspired by Isaiah's prophetic words concerning the future resurrection of the Messiah. The composer claims that the music of the section, which alternates themes from "Let God Arise" from the obikhod and the ecclesiastical theme of "An angel wailed," simply "appeared" to him. The voice of an archangel is represented by a dark trumpet solo.

    The slow introduction leads into a transition which becomes the Allegro of the overture. While the introduction was solemn and mysterious, the Allegro is joyous, conveying a sense of excitement. Trumpet blasts, along with a sense of bell-tolling, push the idea of merriment to the fore. An image of a sexton quickly reading to the congregation is also present. Another obikhod theme, "Christ is arisen," is heard in this section, although it is greatly overshadowed by other sounds.

    In the Russian Easter Overture Rimsky-Korsakov attempted to show the contrast between the ancient wonder of Isaiah's proclamation with the almost-Pagan celebration of Easter in modern times. The composer wanted the listener to recognize the parallels between their own actions and biblical tales of "pagan merry-making." He also believed that to make this connection, the listener would have needed to attend an Easter morning service in a cathedral with all types of people. In his childhood, the composer did experience this type of thing. Obviously, Rimsky-Korsakov believed that the religious services of his time were "a far cry from the philosophic and socialistic teaching of Christ." In the program for the first performance of the overture, Rimsky-Korsakov provided prose and Bible verses (two from Psalm 68 and six from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 16) to accompany the work, but he did not speak of his true intentions. He decided that it would be best to allow the "tones to speak for [him]."

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Urania Records WS 121364
    2017 Warner Classics 0190295886691
    2016 British Military Music Archive BMMAGG 1603
    2016 Decca / Philips 4788977
    2014 MDG MDGSC 9061853
    2013 Decca 4785437
    2013 K-Tel K 82486
    2012 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099960257
    2011 Naxos 8572788
    2011 Decca
    2011 Onyx ONYX 4064
    2010 Decca 4782358
    2010 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2010 Decca
    2010 BR Klassik 900704
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Decca 4781490
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 459213
    2008 Nimbus Records 7087
    2008 BBC Legends 42332
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon 4777127
    2007 Medici Masters 9-2
    2007 Cala Records 546
    2007 BIS 1667
    2007 Virgin 65470
    2007 EMI Music Distribution 82232
    2006 RCA Red Seal 71618
    2006 Tuxedo Music TUXCD 1053
    2006 Virgin Classics
    2006 Music & Arts 978
    2005 Telarc Distribution 60655
    2005 Zig Zag Territoires ZZT050502
    2005 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2005 Resonance 3044
    2005 Regis Records 1145
    2005 Rca Red Seal 65843
    2005 Novalis 150718
    2005 EMI Classics
    2004 Testament 1329
    2004 Mercury 4756194
    2004 BIS 1387
    2004 Decca
    2004 Moscow Studio Archives 20021
    2003 EMI Music Distribution 75959
    2003 Hyperion 55137
    2003 Angelok 1 9907
    2003 Warner Classics
    2002 Sony Classical 89956
    2001 Tahra 413-416
    2001 Angel Records / Warner Classics 7243574518
    2001 Telarc Distribution 80568
    2000 Tuxedo Music 1009
    2000 Angel Records 67314
    2000 Laserlight 36008
    2000 Platinum Disc / Platinum Entertainment 0758
    2000 RCA 70931
    2000 Chandos 6613
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 469187
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon
    2000 EMI Music Distribution 74006
    1999 Phonographe 5001
    1999 Reference Recordings 89
    1999 Sony Music Distribution 61698
    1998 Universal Distribution 80398
    1998 Capriccio Records 10776
    1997 Naxos 8 556674
    1997 Melodiya 34165
    1997 Biddulph Recordings 010
    1997 BMG 68443
    1996 Chandos 7029
    1996 Cala Records 505
    1995 London 443464
    1995 RCA Victor 902668132
    1995 Philips 442605
    1995 Seraphim UK / Warner Classics 7243569030
    1995 RCA 68335
    1995 Telarc Distribution 80378
    1995 Novalis 150119
    1994 Erato 94808
    1994 Chandos 9229
    1994 EMI Music Distribution 65205
    1994 ASV 6089
    1994 ASV 6119
    1993 Hyperion 66399
    1993 RCA 61173
    1993 Naxos 550085
    1992 Mercury 434308
    1991 Sony Classical 46537
    1991 Deutsche Grammophon 429984
    1990 London 417299
    1989 Delos 3054
    1989 CBS Records 45652
    1988 Deutsche Grammophon 423 604-2GH2
    1983 Telarc Distribution CD-80072
    Vox 8022
    Sine Qua Non 79096
    EMI Music Distribution 68742
    RCA 60206
    Laserlight 14957
    Deutsche Grammophon 437946
    Supraphon 110622
    Palladio 4167
    In Classical Mood 12028
    Concerto 2824
    Telarc Distribution 82013
    Seraphim UK
    EMI Music Distribution 66282
    Ades 20418
    RCA 7813
    Decca 436512
    Decca 433615
    FNAC Music 592352
    RCA 60487
    CBS Records Masterworks 44559
    Nimbus NI1749
    EMI Music Distribution 74763
    Seraphim UK 69737
    Menuet 160002
    Pickwick 1612
    Svetlanov 570091/6
    Melodiya 211