Everyone knows Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. But this Saturday the Salt Lake Symphony, joined by guests Monika Jalili and her Persian Ensemble, will give a new spin to this venerable classic.

Robert Baldwin

“Monika will be playing songs related to the story in between the movements,” Salt Lake Symphony music director Robert Baldwin told Reichel Recommends, adding that it will give the well known work a fresh perspective. “Rimsky-Korsakov uses a lot of Eastern scales that add an exotic element to the music,” he said. So the idea of blending Western classical music and traditional Eastern music isn’t too far fetched.

Saturday’s concert, called “East Meets West: Promoting Peace Through Music,” will blend Eastern traditional music and Western classical works that have Eastern elements. “I think it’s a neat idea to put this program together.” And it’s something Baldwin hopes will be attractive to the audience.

Baldwin met Jalili a few years ago when she introduced herself to him after moving to Salt Lake City from New York. “She gave me some of her CDs to listen to,” and Baldwin has been wanting to do a program with her since.

Monika Jalili

Jalili and her ensemble, which is still based in New York, plays everything from traditional Persian music to popular works that were banned after the Iranian revolution. “Monika and her ensemble are keeping this musical tradition alive,” Baldwin said.

He added that the audience might be surprised how Western some of this traditional music sounds. “Some of the music has Western influences, especially French, because that was part of their past culture.”

Blending Persian music and Scheherazade together mixes cultures, because The One Thousand and One Nights, which formed the basis for Rimsky-Korsakov’s four-movement work, is a compilation of Arabic stories, and has nothing to do with Persia. But Baldwin doesn’t see this as a problem. “The two cultures can come together through their music. They can coexist as an art form.”

In addition to collaborating with the symphony on Scheherazade, Jalili and her group will also play a couple of traditional numbers on their own. And rounding out the program are two other works: Ippolitov-Ivanov’s Procession of the Sardar, from his Caucasian Sketches, and Justin Merritt’s Dervish.

Merritt’s piece was submitted to a composition contest that was held recently at the University of Utah. It didn’t win, but Baldwin liked it and wanted to program it. “Justin uses a Sufi melody,” Baldwin explained. “The piece starts slowly and builds speed gradually,” and is quite a vivid musical depiction of whirling Dervishes.

Baldwin likes the concept of this program because it looks outside the box. “We get stuck in our traditional concert format. The format works, of course, but you can do a lot more. This program puts both ensembles up front and center. It also underscores the uniqueness of the music.”

  • What: Salt Lake Symphony, Monika Jalili and her Persian Ensemble, Robert Baldwin, conductor
  • Venue: Libby Gardner Concert Hall
  • Time and Date: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9
  • Tickets: $10 general, $5 seniors and students
  • Phone: 801-531-7501
  • Web: www.saltlakesymphony.org
  • ALSO: Pre-concert discussion with Robert Baldwin, Room 270 (behind Libby Gardner Concert Hall), 6:15 p.m., free
This entry was posted in Articles, Concert Previews by Edward Reichel. Bookmark the permalink.

About Edward Reichel

Edward Reichel, author, writer and composer, has been covering the classical music scene in Utah since 1997. For many years he served as the primary music critic for the Deseret News. He has also written for a number of publications, including Chamber Music Magazine, OPERA Magazine, 15 Bytes, Park City Magazine and Salt Lake Magazine. He holds a Ph.D. in composition from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He can be reached at ed.reichel@gmail.com. Reichel Recommends is also on Twitter @ReichelArts.

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