Wednesday, October 27, 2010


On Thursday night, NYRO begins rehearsals for our December concert.  The program will be Samuel Barber's Music For A Scene from Shelley, Schumann's Cello Concerto with Eric Jacobsen as soloist, and my all-time, top of the list favorite piece of classical music, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade.

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.

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