Our music for this week is the famous Scheherazade by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
This composition is based on a story about a storyteller. Scheherazade is the name of a young bride of a murderous Sultan who threatens to have her executed. In order to escape death, she captivates the Sultan by telling him fascinating stories. He is so amazed by the stories that he is unable to kill her for fear of never hearing the end of the story. After 1,001 nights of story-telling, the Sultan finally has a change of heart and decides to let her live.
The opening of the piece represents the burly, gruff Sultan. However, the solo violin line (played by the concertmaster) enters soon afterward, representing Scheherazade’s weaving, winding stories. It is introduced by the hypnotic striking of three chords by the harp, signaling the entry into a new world of fantasy and story-telling. The first story is hard to miss – The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship. You will hear the rolling waves and pounding surf right away. The second movement is called the “Tale of the Kalendar Prince,” and the woodwinds create a very exotic atmosphere of foreign mystique. The third movement is the best of all, for it is a love story – “The Young Prince and Young Princess.” This movement is simple yet lyrical, innocent yet emotional. The love story is abruptly ended by a crashing cymbal strike, which leads to the final movement, “The Festival at Baghdad,” in which the Sultan urges Scheherazade to finish the story and eventually decides to spare her life.