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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Romantic Era > Oriental Suite, "Antar" - Rimsky-Korsakov


Oriental Suite, "Antar"

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
(1844-1908)


"Antar" was at first designated a symphony, being the second of Rimsky-Korsakov’s compositions in this class, but was afterwards called "Oriental Suite." The story of "Antar" has its origin in an Arabian tale by Sennkowsky. According to the composers’ program, Antar is a desert recluse, and has sworn hatred against all human beings. One day a beautiful gazelle appears before him, and as he is about to pursue the creature he descries a monstrous bird threatening it. He turns his weapon against the bird, which flies away with piercing cries. Antar then falls asleep and finds himself transported to the palace of the Queen of Palmyra, the fairy Gul-Nazar, who is none other than the gazelle. Grateful for her rescue, she promises him the three greatest enjoyments of life -- vengeance, power, and love. He awakes in the desert, but is transported anew to the palace. After a long period of happiness the fairy perceives that Antar wearies of her. She embraces him, the fire of her passion consumes his heart, and he dies in her arms. There are two motives in the suite which dominate it -- a theme in the opening in violas and woodwinds, called the "Antar motive," and a charming melody in flutes and horns, which is the fairy motive. The suite is in four movements, which have been thus characterized by César Cui, the Russian composer, to whom it is dedicated:

"First part: Antar is in the desert -- he saves a gazelle from a beast of prey. The gazelle is a fay, who rewards her deliverer by granting him three pleasures. The whole of this part, which begins and ends with a picture of the desolate and boundless desert, is worthy of the composer’s magic brush.

"Second part: The Pleasure of Vengeance -- a rugged, savage, unbridled allegro, with crescendos like the letting loose of furious winds.

"Third part: The Pleasure of Power -- an Oriental march. A masterpiece of the finest and most brilliant interpretation.

"Last part: The Pleasure of Love, amid which Antar expires -- a delicate, poetic, delicious andante."





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