Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Sunday, November 3

Middle-Eastern sounds from Rimsky-Korsakov and Reza Vali

Synopsis

On this day* in 1888, the orchestral suite “Scheherazade,” the most famous work of the Russian composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, was first performed in St. Petersburg. The suite evokes episodes from “The Arabian Nights.” Though Rimsky-Korsakov was Russian, and most often concentrated on operas based on RUSSIAN history and fable, it’s ironic that his most popular work was inspired by folklore and fables from the Middle East.

Until recently, Western knowledge of the Middle Eastern music was mostly limited to such second-hand accounts. But today, we’re discovering first-hand both the traditional music of the Middle East and new works by contemporary composers from that part of the world.

One of these is Iranian-born American composer Reza Vali, who was born in Ghazvin, Iran in 1952 and began his musical studies at the Teheran Conservatory. In 1972, he moved to Vienna and studied at the Academy of Music, and then came to America to study at University of Pittsburgh.

Despite his training in Western technique, Vali has returned to the instruments and traditions of Persian music for inspiration. “Music is like the ocean,” he once said in an interview. “It moves between cultures. It doesn’t have boundaries. But that doesn’t mean that you have to lose your identity … you can have a pluralistic approach by also keeping your identity.”

*Julian calendar date: October 22

Music Played in Today's Program

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) Scheherazade, Op. 35 Atlanta Symphony; Robert Spano, cond. Telarc 80568

Reza Vali (b. 1952) Folk Songs Set No. 9 Alberto Almarza, flute; Alvaro Bitran, cello New Albion 077

Additional Information

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