Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, 1888.
Sheherazade - II - The Tale of the Kalander Prince.
Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade is one of the most popular pieces from the 19th Century. Full of fire and character, it is the musical telling of various stories told by Sheherazade in Arabian Nights (which contains the tales of Aladdin, Ali Baba and Sinbad). Later Nikolai would remove the reference to specific stories from his titles however their continued use is a testament to his ability to effectively translate these tales using the language of music.
The second movement is the Tale of the Kalander Prince. Opening with the solo violin (representing Sheherazade herself) and the accompanying harp it is distinctively exotic and magical. This figures in well with the fact that the Kalander people were portrayed as magicians and entertainers. As the piece progresses, its noble and lively character shines particularly with the playful banter back and forth between the tuba, horns and strings. The entire piece truly shows off all elements of the orchestra and is a truly fun piece to see performed.
As a side note, the Moorish Chief portrayed in the painting of the same name by Eduard Charlemont, is not historically accurate to represent the Kalander Prince. The Moors were African Muslims and the tales of Sheherazade are more likely Persian in nature, the majestic and magical impression which Charlemont portrays is in all likelihood what both Sheherazade and Rimsky-Korsakov intended. Much like Rimsky-Korsakov's work, Charlemont's painting is full of color and texture and should be seen in person at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Selected recordings recommended for purchasing:
Philadelphia Orchestra (Conducted by Ormandy) version available here.
New York Philharmonic (Conducted by Bernstein) version available here.
Philharmonia Orchestra of London (Conducted by Batiz) version available here.
Kirov Orchestra (Conducted by Gergiev) version available here.
Artwork by: Eduard Charlemont // Moorish Chief