|Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov Opus 35|
ScheherazadeSymphonic suite 1888. Time: 46'30.
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Sheherazade (Scheherazade; Russian: Шехерезада, Shekherezada 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, sometimes known as The Arabian 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. The music was used in a ballet by Michel Fokine. This use of the music was denounced by the Rimsky-Korsakov estate, led by the composer's widow, Nadezhda Rimskaya-Korsakova.
During the winter of 1887, as he worked to complete Alexander Borodin's unfinished opera Prince Igor, Rimsky-Korsakov decided to compose an orchestral piece based on pictures from The Arabian Nights as well as separate and unconnected episodes. After formulating musical sketches of his proposed work, he moved with his family to the Glinki-Mavriny dacha, in Nyezhgovitsy along the Cheryemenyetskoye Lake. During the summer there he finished Sheherazade and the Russian Easter Festival Overture. Notes in his autograph orchestral score show that the former was completed between June 4 and August 7, 1888. Sheherazade consisted of a symphonic suite of four related movements that form a unified theme. It was written to produce a sensation of fantasy narratives from the Orient.
Initially, Rimsky-Korsakov intended to name the respective movements in Sheherazade: Prelude, Ballade, Adagio and Finale. However, after weighing the opinions of Anatoly Lyadov and others, as well as his own aversion to a too-definitive program, he settled upon thematic headings, based upon the tales from The Arabian Nights.
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. 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. He stated "All I desired was that the hearer, if he liked my piece as symphonic music, should carry away the impression that it is beyond a doubt an Oriental narrative of some numerous and varied fairy-tale wonders and not merely four pieces played one after the other and composed on the basis of themes common to all the four movements.” Rimsky-Korsakov went on to say that he kept the name Sheherazada because it brought to everyone’s mind the fairy-tale wonders of Arabian Nights and the East in general.
The transliteration of the title 'Scheherazade' is, in fact German - the 'c' being redundant in English. The spelling 'Sheherazade' (withouth the 'c') is more correct in English and is gaining popular currency.
Sheherazade the piece
Rimsky wrote a brief introduction that he intended for use with the score, as well as the program for the premier:
The grim bass motif that opens the first movement is supposed to represent the domineering Sultan (see theme illustrated below). This theme emphasizes four notes of a descending whole tone scale: E-D-C-A#. But soon, after a few chords in the woodwinds reminiscent of the opening of Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream overture, 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 theme is a tender, sensuously winding melody for violin solo, accompanied by harp. Both of these two themes are shown below.
According to Rimsky-Korsakov, the unifying thread consisted of the brief introductions to the first, second and fourth movements and the intermezzo in movement three, written for violin solo and delineating Sheherazada herself as telling her wondrous tales to the stern Sultan. The final conclusion of movement four serves the same artistic purpose. Rimsky-Korsakov stated “The unison phrase, as though depicting Sheherazada’s stern spouse, at the beginning of the suite appears as a datum, in the Kalendar’s Narrative, where there cannot, however, be any mention of Sultan Shakhriar. In this manner, developing quite freely the musical data taken as a basis of composition, I had to view the creation of an orchestral suite in four movements, closely knit by the community of its themes and motives, yet presenting, as it were, a kaleidoscope of fairy-tale images and designs of Oriental character …”  Rimsky-Korsakov had a tendency to juxtapose keys a major third apart, which can even be seen in the strong relationship between E and C major in first movement. This, along with his signature orchestration style of simplistic melodies, assembled rhythms, and talent for soloistic writing allowed for such a piece as Scheherazade to be written.
The movements were unified by the short introductions in the first, second and fourth movements, and an intermezzo in movement three. The last was a violin solo representing Sheherazade, and a similar artistic theme is represented in the conclusion of movement four. Writers have suggested that Rimsky's earlier career as a naval officer may have been responsible for beginning and ending the suite with themes of the sea. The peaceful coda at the end of the final movement is representative of Sheherazade finally winning over the heart of the Sultan, allowing her to at last gain a peaceful night's sleep.
The work is scored for two flutes and a piccolo (with 2nd flute doubling on 2nd piccolo for a few bars), two oboes (with 2nd doubling cor anglais), two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns in F, two trumpets in A and B-flat, three trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, triangle, tambourine, tam-tam, harp and strings. The music premiered in Saint Petersburg on October 28, 1888 conducted by Rimsky-Korsakov.
The reasons for its popularity are clear enough; it is a score replete with beguiling orchestral colors, fresh and piquant melodies, with a mild oriental flavor, a rhythmic vitality largely absent from many major orchestral works of the later 19th century, and a directness of expression unhampered by quasi-symphonic complexities of texture and structure.
A ballet adaptation of Sheherazade premiered on June 4, 1910, at the Opéra Garnier in Paris by the Ballets Russes. The choreography for the ballet was by Michel Fokine and the libretto was from Fokine and Léon Bakst, who also designed sets and costumes. The widow of Rimsky-Korsakov protested what she saw as the disarrangement of her husband's music in this choreographic drama.
Passages from the symphonic suite, Sheherazade, were also adapted for the ballet scene, that closes the motion picture Song of Sheherazade, in which the lead actress, Yvonne De Carlo, was also the principal dancer. The plot of this film is a heavily fictionalized story, based on the composer's early career in the navy.
Sheherazade has been transcribed in its entirety and in its original key for symphonic wind ensemble by Merlin Patterson. This transcription was commissioned by the University of Houston Wind Ensemble, Tom Bennett, conductor, who gave the premiere at the Moore Opera House in Houston, Texas in April 2005.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Scheherazade_(Rimsky-Korsakov)". Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
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