Scheherazade Symphonic Suite op 35, op.24


Excerpt from Death and Transfiguration by Gerald Elias

“Loosely based on A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, the piece begins with a brief but foreboding introduction by the low brass, representing the voice of the Sultan Schariar, followed by the first of a half dozen exquisite violin solos portraying the seductive “once upon a time” voice of Scheherazade.  Moskowitz played the solos with the personality of the protagonist clearly in mind, never overly aggressive, just suggestive enough for the Persian princess to keep the Sultan salivating for more.   By the time Sinbad’s ship had crashed against the rocks in the last movement and Scheherazade completed her final commentary, tapering into a “happily ever after” cadence, Jacobus was reaffirmed in his affection for the particular performance, both by Herza and by Moskowitz, and for Rimsky-Korsakov’s skill in creating vivid musical imagery.  Jacobus began to ask himself the same old questions for which he knew he would never have the answers:  Why was it that when he listened to a recording for the thousand and first time, when he knew exactly what was going to happen, he was still enthralled by the music?  How is that we can connect certain sounds an orchestra makes with Sinbad’s ship crashing against rocks?  They really sound nothing like one another, yet we’d swear we can see the damn ship.  How is it that musicians who have nothing in common with the composer, nothing even in common with each other, can band together and create something miraculous?  Just look at Herza and Sherry O’Brien, ready to kill each other, two maladjusted humans, like himself he added, but cavorting like lovers as soon as the performance begins.  How different in personality, Jacobus thought, Scheherazade O’Brien was from her namesake. Or was she?"


Music from Death and Transfiguration

Scheherazade, Symphonic Suite by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov
conducted by Andre Previn with the Vienna Philharmonic

If Richard Strauss had a rival who could match, stroke for stroke, his vast palette of orchestral color, it would be the Russian composer, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, whose book on symphonic orchestration is a bible for would-be composers.

Perhaps no piece demonstrates Rimsky-Korsakov’s skill in this genre than his tour de force, the beloved symphonic suite, “Scheherezade.”  Throughout, the solo violin representing the seductive voice of the Persian princess is woven into the fabric of the music as she relates the story of Sinbad from the Thousand and One Nights.   Like Strauss, Rimsky-Korsakov paints a brilliant tone painting, from the hubbub of a bazaar to Sinbad’s ship being dashed against the rocks.