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Classical 101

Columbus Symphony Oct 9/10

[video is dead] Jean-Marie Zeitouni conducts his first concerts as music director of the Columbus Symphony this Saturday, October 9 at 8 PM in the Ohio Theater, with a repeat Sunday afternoon at 3.  Soprano Karine Gauvin joins the CSO for Ravel's Sheherazade; also on the program are Debussy's Le mer and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade Any orchestra wanting to show itself off in its best aural technicolor [caption id="attachment_14979" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Maurice Ravel"][/caption] splendor can choose no better program than this early 20th century French program with a heady dash of Russian nationalism thrown in. Maurice Ravel's (1875-1938) Sheherazade has little to do with the legends of the Arabian Nights used fifteen years earlier by Rimsky-Korsakov. Ravel wrote three songs for soprano and orchestra to poetry by Tristan Klingsor. We smile today at the seeming naivete of this pseudonym. Tristan Klingsor was born Arthur Justin Leon Lecliere. He chose to name himself after two characters from Wagner's music dramas. The Cornish night Tristan who has a passion for Isolde, and the castrated wizard Klingsor, the evil genius of Parsifal. Whether sincere or showboating, M. Lecliere-Tristan-Klingsor made a mark as a poet and art critic at the end of the 19th century. With Ravel, de Falla and Stravinsky he belonged to an informal "social club" called  Les Apaches. Loosely translated 'Hooligans'. These artists, composers, writers and painters gathered on Saturday nights at each other's homes to discuss their art, music, book and pictures and to rag on everybody else's . Ravel himself was still feeling the effects of Wagnerian chromaticism that was pervading the world of music (by 1900, you were either moving toward or away from Wagner) Yet Ravel was considered primarily a classicist. His models were Mozart and Haydn. "His music represents a straightforward view of life in clear and durable forms." So wrote Virgil Thomson fifty years later. The three poems of Sheherazade represent a hot and possibly drug influenced view of the Orient: Asie; La flute enchantee; and L'indifferent. It bears pointing out that Tristan Klingsor was homosexual. It was clear that he intended the eroticism of L'indifferent to represent one  man yearning for another Your eyes are like those of a girl, young stranger. The curve of your handsome face, shadowed with down, has an even more seductive line Here's the magnificent Tatiana Troyanos, with piano [youtube GwTBhvu1At8 490 344] Here's Claude Debussy playing his melodie Green with soprano Mary Garden, recorded in Paris in 1902 [youtube WoAif_pFX88 490 344] Debussy had rocked Paris with his opera Pelleas et Melisande. It was 00000178-6a23-ddab-a97a-6a3b5bcd0000Debussy who used the Wagnerian influenced harmonies, with a sense of restlessness and delayed resolutions in a new way. His music moved horizontally, in blanketing lines. It's hard to grasp on to a tonal core. La mer (The Sea) was written between 1903 and 1905. The premiere was not a success. Not because the three movement symphonic sketches failed to entice. But because it was more fun for press and public to thrill at Debussy's recent separation from his wife Lily and his affair with Emma Bardac, who bore him a daughter. Why let skill and success get in the way of  a juicy story? Nevertheless,  La mer presents a composer in love with the sound of music (I know, I know). Debussy's music is based on sonority as opposed to the synthesis of rhythm, melody and pitch. In fact, rhythms and melody often seem absent (they are not) In La mer, Debussy paid tribute to his childhood dream of becoming a sailor. The sea itself is never truly still. Neither is Debussy's music [youtube 4240QMQ1jhU 490 344] And so to the Scheherazade of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. He was a navy [caption id="attachment_14983" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov"]00000178-6a23-ddab-a97a-6a3b5bce0000[/caption] man who for many years put the sea before music. Eventually he became Professor of Music at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Part of Rimsky-Korsakov's career was spent finishing and "improving" (and there's disagreement here) of music by Borodin and Mussorgsky. Rimsky-Korsakov worked toward a 'nationalist' school of Russian music. His scores are filled with references to Russian folk tales and Russian folk music. Scheherazade, written in 1888 is a large 'symphonic suite' from 1888. Nobody orchestrates better than Rimsky-Korsakov . It glitters, it rages, it sings, it weeps,  it's all there. The bazaars, the prince and princess, and the magic carpets: The Sultan Schariar, convinced that women are false and faithless, vowed to put to death each of his wives after the nuptial night.  But the Sultana Scheherazade 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 solo violin is the beguiling voice of the Sultana. We hear The Sea and Sinbad's Ship; The Kalendar Prince; The Young Prince and the Young Princess and Festival at Baghdad [youtube sygFPCMRkcU 490 344] Want more? You should! Columbus Symphony at the Ohio Theater,  Saturday October 9 at 8 PM, and Sunday afternoon at 3.  Pre -concert talks by Yours Truly one hour before each concert, 4th floor mezzanine. And no, you haven't heard the talk if you've read this blog.  Saturday night's performance is broadcast live on WOSU 89-7. --Christopher Purdy

Christopher Purdy is Classical 101's early morning host, 7-10 a.m. weekdays. He is host and producer of Front Row Center – Classical 101’s weekly celebration of Opera and more – as well as Music in Mid-Ohio, Concerts at Ohio State, and the Columbus Symphony broadcast series. He is the regular pre-concert speaker for Columbus Symphony performances in the Ohio Theater.