Saturday, May 30, 2009

Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade

from wikipedia: Scheherazade (Sheherazade; Шехерезада in Cyrillic, Šekherezada in transliteration), Op. 35, is a symphonic suite composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1888. Based on The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, this orchestral work combines two features common to Russian music and of Rimsky-Korsakov, in particular: dazzling, colorful orchestration and an interest in the East, which figured greatly in the history of Imperial Russia, as well as orientalism in general. It is considered Rimsky-Korsakov's most popular work.

Initially, Rimsky-Korsakov intended to name the respective movements in Scheherazade: Prelude, Ballade, Adagio and Finale. However, after weighing the opinions of Anatoly Lyadov and others, he settled upon thematic headings, based upon the tales from The Arabian Nights.
I. The Sea and Sinbad's Ship (Largo e maestoso — Allegro non troppo)
II. The Kalendar Prince (Lento — Andantino — Allegro molto — Con moto)
III. The Young Prince and The Young Princess (Andantino quasi allegretto — Pochissimo più mosso — Come prima — Pochissimo più animato)
IV. Festival At Baghdad. The Sea. The Ship Breaks against a Cliff Surmounted by a Bronze Horseman. (Allegro molto — Vivo — Allegro non troppo maestoso)

The composer deliberately made the titles vague, so that they are not associated with specific tales or voyages of Sinbad. However, in the epigraph to the finale, he does make reference to the adventure of Prince Ajib.[5] In a later edition, he did away with titles altogether, desiring instead that the listener should hear his work only as an Oriental-themed symphonic music, that evokes a sense of the fairy-tale adventure.[3]

Rimsky wrote a brief introduction that he intended for use with the score, as well as the program for the premier:

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 Scheherazade saved her life by entertaining her lord with fascinating tales, told seriatim, 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.[6]

The grim bass motif that opens the first movement is supposed to represent the domineering Sultan[3] (see theme illustrated below). This theme emphasizes four notes of a descending whole tone scale: E-D-C-A#.[7] But soon, after a few chords in the woodwinds reminiscent of the opening of Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream overture,[5] we hear the leitmotif that represents the character of the storyteller herself, Scheherazade, his wife, who eventually succeeds at appeasing him with her stories. This is a haunting, sensuously winding melody for violin solo, accompanied by harp.[6] Both of these two themes are shown below.

the youtube series below is:
Moscow Symphony - Arthur Arnold, conductor - Elena Semenova - violin - Live from The Hague.

No date listed.

Not sure why youtube has a 10 min limit but it makes for an interrupted listen (ala Sheherazade?)

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