The Arabian Fantasy is pure orientalism. The rhyme is from Arabic models and the melody comes from Syria. The accompaniment on the tonic and sub-dominant, is a pure drone, as in bagpipes. The sound, accompanied by cymbals, comes from older ‘oriental’ models in the west that would use the jingling johnny – the Turkish crescent.
The symphonie concertante was most popular during the second half of the 18th century and then was abandoned in favour of works that brought out more of the soloists’ qualities, such as double and triple concertos. As the leader of the orchestra and composer of the work, Saint-Georges could present music that could show off both the ensemble and the soloists.
What we hear in the young Stravinsky’s work is a brilliant showpiece that picks up the same kind of vibrant colour we’re used to in Rimsky-Korsakov’s work. The opening is atmospheric, there’s energy in the watchers and then, boom, the firework goes off into the air and then slowly drifts down, lighting up the evening sky.
His 1894 composition, Bayati-kurd, Op. 2, reflects Kurdish tradition. ‘Bayati’ is an Arabic word for poetry. This work is elegiac, and begins with a slow introduction (tchobane). The principal section of the piece is the bayati; the closing section is known as a guiaff. The tchobane’s wistful melody gives way to increasingly fervent harmonies, the result of using both major and minor thirds.
It’s not an ode to Spring having arrived, it’s an ode to the coming of Spring. The opening Largetto is atmospheric before the piano joins with a long cantabile melody. The piano is then joined by a solo cello and then the full orchestra. It is in the Presto section that Spring arrives with its exuberance and energy. A brass fanfare announces the true arrival of the season. The end of the work is calmer, sunlit, and closes with a flourish.
The concert piece La fée d’amour, op 67 (The Fairy of Love), was composed as a work for violin and orchestra in 1854. It became a favourite of Sarasate to the point that he played it at nearly every concert, either with orchestra or only with piano.
Despite this brilliant beginning, Henselt, probably due to extreme stage fright, removed himself from the concert stage at age 33; he had stopped composing three years earlier. To take up his time, he became more active teaching in the imperial household and travelled through Russia in his role of Inspector General of music schools and teaching academies.
While following the passacaglia format, Webern, at the same time, has managed to put the work almost in sonata form: after the presentation of the theme in the 8 pizzicato notes heard at the beginning, they develop into a central slow section, a section with scherzo elements, and then closes with a highly compressed recapitulation.