Rimsky-Korsakov – Scheherazade (Vienna Philharmonic) Conductor: Valery Gergiev

One of the finest orchestras in the World, the Vienna Philharmonic plays Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov‘s Scheherazade, Op. 35, a symphonic suite composed in 1888. Conductor: Valery Gergiev. Salzburg Festival, 2005.

Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov was a master of orchestration. Based on One Thousand and One Nights (a collection of West and South Asian stories and folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age, it is often known in English as the Arabian Nights), Scheherazade is one of his best-known orchestral compositions.

Movements

  1. The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship (Largo e maestoso – Lento – Allegro non troppo – Tranquillo)

    This movement is composed of various melodies and contains a general A B C A1 B C1 form. Although each section is highly distinctive, aspects of melodic figures carry through and unite them into a movement. Although similar in form to the classical symphony, the movement is more similar to the variety of motives used in one of Rimsky-Korsakov’s previous works Antar. Antar, however, used genuine Arabic melodies as opposed to Rimsky-Korsakov’s own ideas of an oriental flavor.

  2. The Kalendar Prince (Lento – Andantino – Allegro molto – Vivace scherzando – Moderato assai – Allegro molto ed animato)

    This movement follows a type of ternary theme and variation and is described as a fantastic narrative. The variations only change by virtue of the accompaniment, highlighting the piece’s “Rimsky-ness” in the sense of simple musical lines allowing for greater appreciation of the orchestral clarity and brightness. Inside the general melodic line, a fast section highlights changes within both tonality and structure of the fanfare motif, played by trombone and muted trumpet.

  3. The Young Prince and The Young Princess (Andantino quasi allegretto — Pochissimo più mosso – Come prima – Pochissimo più animato)

    This movement is also ternary, and is considered the simplest movement in form and melodic content. The inner section is said to be based on the theme from Tamara, while the outer sections have song-like melodic content. The outer themes are related to the inner by tempo and common motif, and the whole movement is finished by a quick coda return to the inner motif, balancing it out nicely.

  4. Festival at Baghdad. The Sea. The Ship Breaks against a Cliff Surmounted by a Bronze Horseman. (Allegro molto – Lento – Vivo – Allegro non troppo e maestoso – Tempo come I)

    This movement ties in aspects of all the proceeding movements as well as adding some new ideas Including but not limited to: an introduction of both the beginning of the movement and the Vivace section based on Sultan Shakhriar’s theme, a repeat of the main Sheherazade violin theme, and a reiteration of the fanfare motif to portray the ship wreck. Coherence is maintained by the ordered repetition of melodies, and continues the impression of a symphonic suite, rather than separate movements. A final conflicting relationship of the subdominant minor Shakhriar theme to the tonic major cadence of the Scheherazade theme resolves in a fantastic, lyrical, and finally peaceful conclusion.

Sources

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