Friday, August 21, 2020

Rimsky-Korsakov - Scheherazade

Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov  was an an officer in the Russian Imperial Navy and Inspector Of Naval Bands. He was also a professor of composition, harmony and orchestration at the St. Petersburg Conservatory beginning in 1871.  He composed in many musical forms, but is best known for his operas and symphonic works.

He was a master orchestrator and his composition Scheherazade is a brilliant piece for orchestra. The piece is based on The Book Of A Thousand And One Nights also known as The Arabian Nights.  Rimsky-Koraskov  wrote a short introduction that he intended for use in the score and as a program note for concerts:

"The Sultan Schariar, convinced that all women are false and faithless, vowed to put to death each of his wives after the first nuptial night. But the Sultana Scheharazade saved her life by entertaining her lord with fascinating tales for a thousand and one nights. The Sultan, consumed with curiosity, postponed from day to day the execution of his wife and finally repudiated his bloody vow entirely."

Scheherazade is in four separate sections:

1) The Sea and Sinbad's Ship
2) The Kalendar Prince
3) The Young Prince and Young Princess
4) Festival At Baghdad. The Sea. The Ship Breaks Against A Cliff Surmounted By A Bronze Horseman.

Rimsky-Korsakov was very sparse in his explanation of the movements and the tales depicted. In later editions of the work he did away with even the titles of the movements, expressing his hope that the listener would hear the music as Oriental-themed work that evoked the sense of a fairy tale adventure.

1 comment:

  1. It is one of the most delightful historical ironies that the Ballet Russe choreography (the sensationalist libretto for which is completely at odds with the original story and the music) has sunk into well-earned obscurity, while the symphonic poem marches on as a concert favorite. The epitome performance is the RCA Reiner/Chicago from the '50s, recorded during a snowstorm and with Reiner's notorious martinet approach resulting in a number of first-chair musicians resigning after the session. Despite or because of this, it remains an utterly exquisite capture of the orchestral and melodic glories of the work.