The idea for a new edition of “The Flight of the Bumble Bee” from Rimskij-Korsakow was born during the preparation for a CD production with the title “Piano for one to six Hands”. The concept for this CD was to produce a series of piano pieces for a number of hands in numerical succession. In the practice that meant that at first a piece for the left or right hand had to be created, then a piece for both hands, followed by three, four, five or six handed pieces etc. ending with an eight- handed piece for two pianos.
Since there was no five-handed piece available, this had to be created. That is when I had the idea for an arrangement of “The Flight of the Bumble Bee”. This piece offered the opportunity of using the accompanying accords for a very gentle variation on a second piano with two players, whilst the virtuous movement remained for the right hand of the third player on the first piano. So a piece for five hands and two pianos was created.
Although the part for the second piano is relatively simple and can be accomplished by intermediate students, the part of the first piano, in a continuous 6/10 tact is a real challenge. One could call the piece “a real piano teacher hunt”, if two students decided to challenge their lecturer at the next piano recital.
The probably purposely irregular periodic from Rimskij-Korsakow , has been prolonged in two places. First of all I added six cadences to the original six in the introduction, in order to postpone the actual beginning of the piece - the flight of the bumble bee and thus create more tension from the start.
Additionally I have inserted the cadences 45 to 66 inclusive in the new version. They do not exist in the original. In my opinion this is in fact a “middle part”, which aims at the dominate tone A-minor (E-major) and which, after lingering a while on this tone, as a form of reprise, flows into the bumble bee’s flight theme once again. This intermediary part is only crudely treated in the Rimskij- Korsakow version and is in great disproportion in its length to the main parts, which come before and after it. Although I am aware that the composer consciously chose this way of expressing himself, I lengthened the modulation of this middle part by the number of cadences already mentioned, knowing that this would result in a levelling off of the periodic, which might be contrary to the spirit of the piece. On the other hand, the insertion of the cadences may intensify the pleasure of playing this passage. Naturally every team is at liberty to play these passages as foreseen in the original score.
Whether the pianists decide to use the original or edited version of this music, I truly hope that many of them will experience the joy that this piece incorporates and that they may be able to convey this pleasure to their audience.
December 2003 Robert Hurst