Listening to Rimsky-Korsakov

As someone who has little classical music understanding or training, I listened to Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade to see what themes I could pick up on.  I like how the mood at first is dark and foreboding as if Sultan Shahraman is killing the women before the arrival of Scheherazade.  The orchestra starts low and threatening before the first song of Sinbad and the Sea.  This part of begins the main theme where you can hear the leitmotif of Scheherazade and her beautiful narration.

To me I wonder what this says about adaption or translation of the 1001 Nights.  I could easily imagine the music of Rimsky-Korsakov being placed into a larger telling of the stories.  I could imagine that in audiobook reading of the Arabian Nights the music could play into the background while the narrator relates the story.

As the music is not specifically titled, it evokes a sense of awe and inspiration as well as the Nights sense of adventure.  In this, the music of of Rimsky-Korsakov is more of an adaptation as the main themes of the Nights are maintained without the exact plot. The inspiring theme of Scheherazade is the maintained frame story while the themes of Sinbad and the Festival of Baghdad are developed.  However, in this final adaptation  of 1001 Nights, the adaptation is unfaithful to the spirit of the perpetuity of the stories.

With the final theme of the Festival of Baghdad, Scheherazade’s theme overpowers the Sultan’s theme and by doing this the situation of Scheherazade and Shahraman is resolved; a quickly resolved conclusion.


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