The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Easter in a unique way that’s quite different from Western churches. For one, Easter is observed on a different date from one that’s celebrated in the West. The traditional Russian name for Easter is “Bright Holiday”, a name that reflects back to the age of paganism and early Christianity in that country. The composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov was fascinated with this particular time period and set to compose a piece that depicted both cultures and their celebration of the holiday. The result was his legendary Russian Easter Overture.
Most of the themes that Rimsky-Korsakov incorporates in the piece are directly taken from Russian Orthodox liturgical music while also depicting pagan celebrations of the past. For its premiere in 1888, Rimsky-Korsakov dedicated the work to two friends and colleagues from the great “Mighty Handful” who had recently passed on: Modest Mussorgsky and Alexander Borodin.