"Flight of the Bumblebee[s]" from The Tale of Tsar Saltan

by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
arranged for two pianos by Anderson & Roe


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Rimsky-Korsakov's famed "Flight of the Bumblebee" originally appeared as an orchestral interlude in his opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan, which was first performed in 1900. The opera, based on a Pushkin poem, recounts the fairy tale of Prince Gvidon, the son of Tsar Saltan. During this scene in the story, a magical swan transforms Gvidon into a bumblebee so that he can reunite with his father (who has been tricked to believe that his son is not alive). Here is the original text to this particular tableau:

Well, now, my bumblebee, go on a spree

catch up with the ship on the sea,
go down secretly,
get deep into a crack.
Good luck, Gvidon, fly,
only do not stay long!

Endowed with new powers as a bumblebee, Gvidon causes a great deal of chaos in his frantic quest for his father and personal redemption; this commotion can be heard in the piece's rapid, dizzying whirl of chromatic passages. Yet, despite its operatic origins, the "Flight of the Bumblebee" has become universally renowned as a stand-alone instrumental showpiece. In our transcription for two pianos, we take advantage of our twenty fingers to imitate the sound of not just one bumblebee, but an entire swarm of bumblebees. The result buzzes with extra velocity and virtuosity.

— Greg Anderson & Elizabeth Joy Roe