Romance and excitement are included in the price of your ticket at the Arabian Nights concert of the Columbia Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia., The two pieces on the program -- Rimsky-Korsakov's popular Scheherazade and Tan Dun's Paper Concerto for Paper Percussion and Orchestra -- share the ability to create a variety of moods, and, to a certain extent, share the moods they create.
Scheherazade, based on the tales of the Arabian Nights, is the story of a very clever young woman who becomes the wife of a powerful sultan. The sultan enjoys one night of wedded bliss with many, many wives, each of whom is executed the morning after her wedding night. Scheherazade, wishing to prolong her life, tells the sultan a wondrous story, but when the new day dawns she has not finished her story. To find out how the story ends, the sultan must spare her life and let her live to continue the story for a second night.
Scheherazade is truly clever: She tells story after story, delaying her execution for one thousand and one nights, until the sultan finally admits that he has met his match. Rimsky-Korsakov's music depicts the fantastic stories that Scheherazade tells her sultan, weaving an exquisitely beautiful melody in the violin (representing the beautiful young storyteller) in and around musically dramatic accounts of a shipwreck, a prince and princess, and a festival.
Even though we know the eventual outcome, the dramatic quotient of this piece is very high. Contemporary audiences may not find the concept of a new wife every day very romantic, but tastes have changed a lot since the year of the composition's premiere in 1888.
Tan Dun is a composer whose fame skyrocketed after he composed the film score for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000. His Paper Concerto for Paper Percussion and Orchestra, composed in 2003 and only 16 minutes long, uses percussion instruments made of paper and cardboard, constructed according to precise specifications, rather than drums or cymbals or gongs. The percussion soloist at tomorrow's concert is John Locke, a member of the percussion section of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and a faculty member at Peabody Institute.
Jason Love, music director of the Columbia Orchestra, will demonstrate how these unique instruments sound and look before the performance. After the explanation and demonstration, the composition will still be mysterious and romantic because of the unusual visual and aural effects.
A free preconcert discussion of the lives and works of Rimsky-Korsakov and Tan Dun will be given at 6:30 p.m. by Bill Scanlan Murphy, a faculty member of the music department of Howard Community College.
Tickets are available online at columbiaorchestra.org. Tickets may also be purchased at the door. Admission is $16 for adults, $14 for those older than age 60 and $8 for full-time students. Information or directions: 410-465-8777.