Scheherazade is a symphonic suite composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1888. Based on One Thousand and One Nights, sometimes known as The Arabian Nights, this orchestral work combines two features common to Russian music and of Rimsky-Korsakov in particular: dazzling, colorful orchestration and an interest in the East, which figured greatly in the history of Imperial Russia, as well as orientalism in general. It is considered Rimsky-Korsakov's most popular work.
Rimsky wrote a brief introduction that he intended for use with the score, as well as the program for the premiere:
The Sultan Schariar, convinced that all women are false and faithless, vowed to put to death each of his wives after the first nuptial night. But the Sultana Sheherazade saved her life by entertaining her lord with fascinating tales, told seriatim, for a thousand and one nights. The Sultan, consumed with curiosity, postponed from day to day the execution of his wife, and finally repudiated his bloody vow entirely.
The grim bass motif that opens the first movement is supposed to represent the domineering Sultan. This theme emphasizes four notes of a descending whole tone scale: E-D-C-A?. But soon, after a few chords in the woodwinds reminiscent of the opening of Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream overture, we hear the leitmotif that represents the character of the storyteller herself, Scheherazade, his wife, who eventually succeeds at appeasing him with her stories. This theme is a tender, sensuously winding melody for violin solo, accompanied by harp.
In 1959 Conductor Seiji Ozawa won first prize at the highly esteemed International Competition of Orchestra Conductors held in Besançon, France. Upon receiving first prize, Seiji gained the attention and tutorship of Eugene Bigot (President of the Besançon competition jury), who gave Seiji lessons in conducting, and Charles Munch, who invited Seiji to the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood. In 1960, Conductor Seiji won the Koussevitzky Prize, Tanglewoods highest honor, for outstanding student conductor. Shortly thereafter, Conductor Seiji moved to Berlin after winning a scholarship to study with the prominent Austrian conductor, Herbert von Karajan. While studying with Karajan, Conductor Seiji caught the eyes of Leonard Bernstein, who later appointed him as the assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Conductor Seiji remained with Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic for the next four years. Seiji Ozawa became music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1973. His tenure at the BSO was maintained for 29 years, the longest tenure of any music director.
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Boston Symphony Orchestra
Seiji Ozawa, conductor
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844 - 1908)
Scheherazade, Symphonic Suite, Op. 35
1. The Sea and Sindbad's Ship
2. The Story of the Kalandar Prince
3. The Young Prince and the Young Princess
4. Festival at Bagdad - The Sea - The Ship goes to pieces against a Rock surmounted by a Bronze Warrior - Conclusion