Thursday, August 2, 2012

Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade

Tonight in Chicago the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra played Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherezade." The imposing opening theme is the Sultan, answered by Scheherezade, represented by the solo violin, who weaves the movements together as the narrative voice. In the first movement, The Sea and Sinbad's Ship, listen for the strings with their slow arpeggios, the undulating swells that accompany the movement are like waves.

Beyond that, don't look for too many details. The movements themselves aren't specific to one story in the Arabian Nights, but deliberately ambiguous. Sinbad has multiple voyages, so the first movement could describe any of them. There are three tales told by a Kalendar Prince, and multiple tales feature love between a Prince and Princess, the second and third movements. Rimsky-Korsakov said, "I meant these hints to direct but slightly the hearer's fancy on the path which my own fancy had traveled, and leave more minute and particular conceptions to the will and mood of each listener. All I had desired was that the hearer, if he liked my piece as symphonic music, should carry away the impression that it is beyond doubt an Oriental narrative of some numerous and varied fairy-tale wonders." The last movement is an exciting one: (and features some wicked fast double tonguing for winds, I might add)

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