Scheherazade is a symphonic suite of four related movements that form a unified theme. It is among the most famous works by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908). He composed it in 1888, based on pictures from ancient folk tale One Thousand and One Nights (also known as The Arabian Nights), a Persian collection of Middle Eastern folk tales dating from the Islamic Golden Age.
It was written to produce a sensation of fantasy narratives from the Orient, so It can be called a symphonic poem.
Scheherazade Rimsky Korsakov story
It is a story about a barbaric Sultan “Shahriar”, who was full of rage with the unfaithfulness of his wife, so he killed her and then vowed to marry women and kill them during their first wedding night, all out of vengeance for his wife. One day, he married a beautiful girl called the “Sultana Scheherazade”, who had a way to stop his killing spree by entertaining her lord with fascinating tales over a period of one thousand and one nights, among them the adventures of Sinband in the Seven Seas, the discovery of the fourty thieves’ treasure by Ali Baba, and the tale of Aladdin and the magic lamp. The Sultan, consumed with curiosity, postponed from day to day the execution of his wife, and finally stopped killing women.
In Scheherazade, the composer uses the trombones and tubas for the evil Sultan, the solo violin for the beautiful Scheherazade. Initially, the composer intended to name the respective movements in Scheherazade as Prelude, Ballade, Adagio and Finale. but then settled on the thematic headings, based upon the tales from The Arabian Nights.
- The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship
- The Kalendar Prince
- The Prince and the Princess (this is the big hit)
- Festival at Baghdad. The Sea. The Ship Breaks.
In his memoirs, Rimsky-Korsakov said: “All I had desired was that the listener, if he liked my piece as symphonic music, should carry away the impression that it is beyond doubt an Oriental narrative of some numerous and varied fairy-tale wonders and not merely four pieces played one after another.”
These ancient folk tales have inspired poets and writers, artists and composers for centuries but Rimsky-Korsakov has the potential to transport you to a fairy tale world with such forceful emotion, its an exhilarating of love, intrigue and adventure.