Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Scheherazade, symphonic suite for orchestra, Op. 35

    Description by Andrew Lindemann Malone

    Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's works are distinguished by his colorful and imaginative orchestration, and Scheherazade is perhaps the finest example of them all (Claude Debussy, no slouch of an orchestrator himself, paid Scheherazade the highest compliment by using a passage from its second movement, virtually unaltered, in both La mer and Daphnis et Chloe). Scheherazade's gorgeous melodies and vast, impeccably employed palette of orchestral colors have made it Rimsky-Korsakov's most popular work.

    Rimsky-Korsakov's headnote explains the scenario: "The Sultan Schahriar, persuaded of the falseness and faithlessness of women, has sworn to put to death each one of his wives after the first night. But the Sultana Scheherazade saved her life by interesting him in tales she told him during 1,001 nights. Pricked by curiosity, the Sultan put off his wife's execution from day to day, and at last gave up entirely his bloody plan." Four such lifesaving narratives, rendered in music, follow. In later years, Rimsky-Korsakov declared that Scheherazade should be regarded as a symphonic suite with an unspecified Oriental program. This makes sense in light of the fact that the music itself has very little narrative logic. However, some details of the program remain relevant.

    The first movement, titled The Sea and Sinbad's Ship, opens with the growling chords that represent the Sultan, followed by the sinuous solo violin melody that depicts Scheherazade weaving her tales. Scheherazade recedes, and a swaying melody enters in barcarole time on the strings, swelling like the sea. Brass accents occasionally cause the sea to crash and storm, and sweetly scored interludes suggest island dalliances, but the movement ends with a quiet depiction of what must be calm seas and steady wind.

    The Story of the Kalender Prince concerns a prince who disguises himself as a beggar and searches for wisdom. His melancholy theme first appears in solo woodwinds, then enters the strings and quickens as the Prince sets out on his journey. Rimsky-Korsakov suggested that "one might see a fight" when a martial variant of the Sultan's theme enters, surrounded by nervous string oscillations, while a later section with fluttering woodwinds and pizzicato string chords suggests "Sinbad's mighty bird, the Roc."

    The third movement is called The Prince and the Princess and explores an unnamed Eastern palace; the Prince appears as a sensual, langorous string theme, the Princess as a relaxed arc of flute melody. Nevertheless, the beginning of the fourth movement finds the Sultan in an irascible mood, and Scheherazade tries to appease him by describing the restless energy of the festival at Baghdad. From there, the action moves out to the sea, where the weather has worsened. Brass cry out, winds sweep up and down, and the music grows to a massive climax topped by a frightening bitonal crash depicting the ship striking rocks and sinking. The storm subsides, and finally the themes of Scheherazade and the Sultan mingle, Scheherazade's violin playing its highest harmonics.

    Parts/Movements

    1. The Sea and Sinbad's Ship
    2. The Story of Kalender Prince
    3. The Young Prince and the Young Princess
    4. Festival at Baghdad - The Sea

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 CuGate Classics CGC 024
    2017 Philharmonia Records PHR 0106
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 002894795516
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796345
    2016 Warner Classics 554932
    2016 Deutsche Grammophon 4796018
    2015 Sonoma / Sonoma Entertainment ST 20985
    2015 Lim 80
    2015 Linn Records BKD 293
    2015 Paladino Music PMR 0069
    2014 APO (Analogue Production Originals) CAPC 2446 SA
    2014 Onyx / Onyx Classics ONYX 4124
    2014 Opus KURA OPK 7068
    2014 Guild GMCD 2403
    2014 Chandos CHSA 5145
    2014 Paladino Music PMR 0036
    2014 Ars Produktion ARS 38148
    2013 Out Here Records / Zig Zag Territoires ZZT 329
    2013 Helicon Classics HEL 029662
    2013 K-Tel K 82486
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099973175
    2012 Naxos 8501059
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 002894770055
    2012 Supraphon SU 40942
    2012 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2012 Broken Audio BRAU 0471
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 4783375
    2012 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099960257
    2012 Mark Custom Recording 2951
    2012 Concerto / Zebralution
    2011 EMI Classics
    2011 ZYX 57001
    2011 Urania WS 121116
    2011 Apex 4674290
    2011 PentaTone Classics PTC 5186378
    2011 Guild / Guild GHCD2376
    2011 Onyx ONYX 4064
    2011 Naxos 8572693
    2011 EMI Classics
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099994982428
    2010 Decca 4782358
    2010 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2010 MDG / Mdg Gold 3301616
    2010 Classic Records / Classic Records 2021
    2010 RCA Red Seal / Sony Classical 88697700362
    2010 Decca
    2010 Decca
    2010 Decca
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Urania 121100
    2009 Phoenix Edition 420
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Erato 256469452
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Royal Philharmonic Masterworks 28030
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon
    2009 Decca 4781490
    2009 Decca 4781728
    2008 Madacy 52948
    2008 Madacy 52946
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4777517
    2008 Nimbus Records 7087
    2008 Decca 4702532
    2008 Decca / Eloquence 4800081
    2008 Medici Arts 2072278
    2008 Sony Classical Essential Classics 727987
    2007 Amado Classics 4000
    2007 Melodiya 1000180
    2007 BIS 1667
    2007 Virgin 65470
    2007 Grafisound GS 176822
    2007 EuroArts 2060368
    2007 ASV / Resonance CDRSN3088
    2006 ZYX Music 81819
    2006 Testament 1139
    2006 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 0946350824
    2006 EMI Classics
    2006 St. Clair 93712/4
    2006 Elatus
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 4762124
    2006 Philips 4757570
    2006 Philips
    2006 Apex 60374
    2006 Tuxedo Music TUXCD 1053
    2006 Decca 000771602
    2005 Madacy 50503
    2005 Audio Archive Classics / MediaTag 16
    2005 Decca 475 6090DC6
    2005 Zig Zag Territoires ZZT050502
    2005 RCA Red Seal 66377
    2005 Decca 000543302
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 57853
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Moscow Studio Archives 18441
    2005 Archipel 0213
    2005 Rca Red Seal 65843
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Novalis 150718
    2005 Nosag Records 094
    2004 St. Clair 31202
    2004 Document 221905
    2004 History 205651
    2004 Testament 1329
    2004 Delta Distribution 16402
    2004 Decca
    2003 Delta Distribution 40032
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 000085402
    2003 EMI Music Distribution 75941
    2003 Classical Diamonds 4008
    2003 Laserlight / Delta Distribution 40044
    2003 BBC Legends / BBC Music 41212
    2003 Angelok 1 9907
    2003 BIS 1377
    2003 Cala Records 536
    2003 Philips 470 618-2PSA
    2003 Testament 1280
    2003 Dynamic 6396
    2003 History 45515
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 75094
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 575172
    2002 Disques Pierre Verany 730010
    2002 JVC Compact Discs 15
    2002 Brilliant 99934
    2002 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243574751
    2002 Philips 470 840-2PH
    2002 Sony Classical 89956
    2002 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) 338
    2002 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) 273
    2002 Disky 70743
    2001 Naxos 8555889
    2001 Dutton Laboratories CDBP 9712
    2001 St. Clair 7328
    2001 Andante 2986-2989
    2001 Lifestyles 215003
    2001 Telarc Distribution 80568
    2001 St. Clair 7377
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 65715
    2000 D Classics 70588
    2000 Laserlight 15813
    2000 Angel Records 67314
    2000 Tahra 117/19
    2000 Platinum Disc / Platinum Entertainment 1722
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 463614
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 469187
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon
    2000 T-Rax 30
    2000 Unesco 70629
    2000 Delta Distribution 31074
    2000 Virgin 61264
    2000 Teldec 82127
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 469659
    2000 Amadis 7123
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 445141
    2000 Disky 70674
    2000 Virgin 51751-2
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon 445139
    1999 Platinum Disc / Platinum Entertainment 1980
    1999 Phonographe 5001
    1999 Reference Recordings 89
    1999 Angel Records 66998
    1999 Teldec 17125
    1999 Seraphim Classics
    1999 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243573291
    1999 London 460618
    1998 Classic Compact Discs / Classic Records 1021
    1998 Mercury 462953
    1998 Sony Classical 60737
    1998 Intersound 2803
    1998 Cala Records 0521
    1997 Everest 9047
    1997 Chandos 7093
    1997 Biddulph Recordings 010
    1997 Madacy 8819
    1997 Point 265024
    1997 Intersound 2532
    1997 BMG 68443
    1996 Apollo Music 607
    1996 RCA 68168
    1996 EMI Music Distribution 68739
    1996 EMI Music Distribution 69361
    1995 BCI Music (Brentwood Communication) 2343
    1995 London 443464
    1995 RCA 57743
    1995 Rene Gailly 87075
    1995 Madacy 3640
    1995 Seraphim UK / Warner Classics 7243569030
    1995 EMI Music Distribution 55227
    1995 Deutsche Grammophon 445 558-2GMA
    1995 RCA 68335
    1995 ZYX Music 4018
    1995 Madacy 5654
    1995 ZYX Music 1001
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 23242
    1994 Multisonic 0186
    1994 Madacy 1045
    1994 Deutsche Grammophon 4378182
    1994 Naxos 550726
    1994 Infinity Digital 57253
    1994 Castle Communications 819
    1993 Pro-Arte Records 812
    1993 Erato 91717
    1993 Disques Pierre Verany 789052
    1993 Quintessence 2006
    1993 ASV 771
    1993 Praga 250035
    1993 RCA 61173
    1991 RCA 60875
    1991 Sony Classical 46537
    1990 EMI Music Distribution 47717
    1990 Telarc Distribution 80208
    1989 Laserlight 15608
    1989 CBS Records 45652
    1987 London 417 301-2DH
    1987 Deutsche Grammophon 419063
    1984 London 410253
    1983 CBS Records 38476
    1980 Tahra 117
    History 204569
    EMI Music Distribution 67675
    D'Note 3003
    Encore Recordings 67784
    Laserlight 35606
    Columbia River Entertainment Group 1145
    D Classics 707482
    6w 82
    Avui 10
    VMK 1060
    Lys 386
    Document 221907
    History 205654303
    Lydian 18123
    Accord 201342
    EMI Music Distribution 64803
    Boheme Music GOL06
    Vivace 212
    Koch International Classics 7146
    RCA Victor 61893
    Virgin 59658
    BMG DPC13097
    Philharmonia of the Nations 35
    Gamut Classics 521
    Philips 464735
    Decca 433615
    Decca 436512
    Masters of the Millennium 2025
    Vanguard 90
    Bolshoi/BMG
    Vox Allegretto 8003
    Melodiya 1000213
    Pickwick 4
    Donau 8123
    Canyon Classics 3613
    MMG 10037
    Philips 434733
    RCA 60487
    FNAC Music 592352
    Arkadia 771
    EMI Music Distribution 4341
    Vivace 528
    Amado Classics 04026
    Bescol 512
    CBS Records 39786
    London 414124
    Royal Classics 6426
    RCA Victor 61897
    EMI Music Distribution 47617
    EMI Music Distribution 65424
    Philips Classics 420898
    EMI Music Distribution 69831
    CBS Records Masterworks 44559
    Brilliant 99934/1
    Originals 889
    Denon Records 77068
    Naxos 550098
    BBC Music Magazine 256
    Manchester 170
    Manchester 170
    Powder Classics 5093
    Chandos 8479
    Deutsche Grammophon 415512
    Polygram Special Products 93015
    Seraphim UK 69131
    Nimbus NI1749
    Palladio 4159
    Deutsche Grammophon 471215
    Svetlanov 570091/6
    Arlecchino 25
    Tring 037
    K-Tel Distribution 3807002
    Sony Music Distribution 47605
    Laserlight 48003