Culture Club - CD Reviews: SLSO Team Makes a Convincing Case for 'Scheherazade.2'; Two Very Different Discs, Each of High Quality

By Miller, Sarah Bryan | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), October 23, 2016 | Go to article overview

Culture Club - CD Reviews: SLSO Team Makes a Convincing Case for 'Scheherazade.2'; Two Very Different Discs, Each of High Quality


Miller, Sarah Bryan, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Art has always reflected the times in which it's made. That's no less true today.

As Exhibit A, consider composer John Adams' "Scheherazade.2." In the original stories of the "Thousand and One Nights," the Persian king Shahryar, stung by the unfaithfulness of a wife, thereafter married a new one daily, spending the night with her and then having her executed at sunrise.

Scheherazade, the daughter of his vizier, was wise and well- educated. She volunteered to marry Shahyar and then captivated him with a story, which she left unfinished. Shahyar put off her execution for a day so that she could finish it, after which she immediately began telling another, which she also left unfinished. This went on for 1,001 nights, until he gave up on the idea of butchering her.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's popular orchestral work "Scheherazade" illustrates four of the traditional tales with dazzling music and orchestration. Adams, who was inspired by an exhibition on the Arabian nights that amply brought out their violence against women, is concerned with the plight of the young woman and with the plights of her peers. This 50-minute "dramatic symphony" for solo violin and orchestra tells a very different story than Rimsky's exotic fables.

It was written for violinist Leila Josefowicz, one of the great exponents of Adams' Violin Concerto, and an artist of spectacular virtuosity. In the just-released recording from Nonesuch, she and two other important exponents of Adams' work, conductor David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, make a convincing case for the piece. (The same team just recording the Violin Concerto; it will eventually be paired with "Scheherazade.2.")

The first movement is "Tale of the Wise Young Woman Pursuit by the True Believers," followed by "A Long Desire (love scene)," "Scheherazade and the Men with Beards" and, finally, "Escape, Flight, Sanctuary." The protagonist is the young woman, and her tales involve the threat (and worse) of violence against her, as well as moments of lyricism and romance.

The music, as orchestrally colorful and evocative in its own way as Rimsky's, uses Orientalisms of its own, particularly through the use of the cimbalom, a kind of hammered dulcimer. …

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