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


Suite, "Scheherezade"

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
(1844-1908)


The suite "Scheherezade" repeats some of the stories with which the Sultana entertained the Sultan Schahriar during the Thousand and One Nights and thereby saved her life. The composer’s program names the four movements as follows: "1. The Sea and Sindbad’s Ship. 2. The Narrative of the Calendar Prince. 3. The Young Prince and the Princess. 4. The Festival at Bagdad. The Sea. The ship goes to pieces on a rock surmounted by the bronze statue of a warrior. Conclusion." A single theme, that of Scheherezade, which is mostly assigned to the first violins and represents the Sultana in the narrative, links the four themes together. The first movement opens with the ocean theme, which is elaborated with an undulating, wave-like accompaniment. Four motives appear in this movement, the Sea, Wave, Ship, and Scheherezade, and the elaboration of these principal ideas constitutes the contents of the movement. In the second movement, after the Scheherezade motive, the bassoon over a drone bass begins the Calendar Prince’s Narrative. It is then taken up in the oboe with harp accompaniment, next in the violins, and last in the woodwinds and horns with pizzicato string accompaniment. A new theme now appears in trombones and trumpets as a recitative, which leads to a brilliant march rhythm, worked up in full orchestra and accompanied by fragments of the previous themes, which bring the movement to a close in an outburst of jollity. The third movement begins with a charming romanza, interrupted here and there by the Scheherezade motive. The second theme presents the most bizarre effects, and is given an Oriental color by the fantastic use of the triangle, tambourine, cymbals, and drum. It is a veritable picture of an Arabian night. The final movement suggests the Sea motive of the opening, followed by a recitative passage in solo violin and leading to a description of the Bagdad fêtes, in which the preceding motives are worked up into a wild dance, which waxes more and more furious until at last the trombones produce the crash of the ship on the magnetic rocks and the fury of a storm. It gradually subsides, and reminiscences of previous developments bring Scheherezade’s story to an end.





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