I fell in love with Scheherazade early in high school. I'd heard excerpts from it on the radio but it wasn't until I bought a cassette recording of the piece that I was able to listen to the entire work from beginning to end. I adored the structure of the work, the way Rimsky-Korsakov used music to tell stories from the Arabian Nights. And the orchestration is amazing. Scheherazade was the first orchestral score that I bought, and I spent hours looking through it and conducting from it in front of the stereo in my bedroom.
I've been waiting for twenty years to play this piece. I missed it by one season when I played with the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra. I graduated from high school in 1992 and went to college at Georgetown, and the JSO performed it in the spring of 1993. I came home for the concert, and while I enjoyed hearing my colleagues play, I dearly wanted to be on the stage with them. A few years later, I was out of college and living in Washington, DC when I heard that the Georgetown University Orchestra planned to play Scheherazade. I contacted the music director and she welcomed me back to the group. But after a couple of rehearsals we'd only played part of the fourth movement and it was clear we weren't going to pull off the entire work. So I pulled out. Thus ended my brief orchestral comeback of 1999.
To say that I'm excited about playing Scheherazade would be a bit of an understatement. I'm positively giddy. But I've looked at the music and realized why I never looked at the viola part before. It's almost all filler. Rimsky-Korsakov was a master of orchestration, and the viola part fills in the harmony and only occasionally plays something resembling the melody. It's not going to be a "fun" part to play. But I'm still looking forward to taking the piece apart and putting it back together again in rehearsals. I just hope I don't get sick of it by December 18.