Free Mini-Lesson: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov – The Story of the Kalender Prince, from Scheherazade, op. 35
The Kalender Prince is the second movement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic suite, Scheherazade, based on the Book of One Thousand and One Nights. Scheherazade tells the story of a woman who, from her marginalized existence, becomes empowered, and in her struggle to survive, changes an empire.
A man discovers that a woman, in this case, his wife, has cheated on him. He kills her, execution-style. His rage against women so consumes him that he carries out a one-man rampage of serial rape and murder. This is not, however, the story of Ted Bundy or the Hillside Strangler.
This man rules a nation. His vendetta becomes national policy, a gender-based genocide using the cover of legal marriage to hide the brutality of his acts. One woman dares to challenge this reign of terror.
Scheherazade is the latest in the ruler’s string of brides, a daughter of a government official who volunteers for the job when no more eligible women can be found. On what was to be the last night of her life, however, she fights back. Not with violence, but rather with the word. She enchants the ruler with fantastic tales, tales which cannot be finished until the following night. To hear the end of the story, he has to let her live. She then begins another compelling story, not revealing the ending until the next day. She continues, until the stories stretch across the span of one thousand and one nights, nearly three years’ time.
During that time the ruler not only becomes enchanted with not only her story, but with Scheherazade herself, discovering that humanity extends to all members of the human race.
Though a work of fiction, Scheherazade demonstrates the leverage that even the powerless can wield against the forces of institutionalized violence. Her story gives hope to all humankind.
This is a transcription for guitar of this movement.
We at Los Angeles Guitar Academy hope that our students, like Rimsky-Korsakov, will use the power of music to bring justice and peace to our world.
Spot Practice Clip:
In the beginning, note that the accompaniment notes on each chord are sustained as long as possible underneath the melodic line. The last chord consists of an open E (sixth string), an open G, and and an open B string, with a twelfth fret harmonic on the E string (E minor chord) played as an arpegiatto (rolled chord).
Note the double string (cross string trill) toward the end of the clip (measure 19, for those that have access to the sheet music through an on-demand subscription) This is a piano-like trill played on two strings, as opposed to the typical single string trill that is more usual for guitar music. Make sure the trill and the grace note in this passage do not delay the downbeats (due to poor execution) and that you are playing in tempo.