Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov - Scheherazade

Cadenza video
Other solos video

This wonderful Symphony is made up of four tone poems depicting four tales from 1001 Arabian Nights. As in Capriccio Espagnole, the violin and clarinet are prominent throughout. The first movement has some fun passages where the clarinet is prominent among the orchestral tutti - B, and the triplet passages at D and H. These are only rarely on auditions, but can be awkward, so prepare them ahead of time. Short solo passages are before and after C, and at F and M. Be expressive and consider the context, like after C you are echoing the violin, but before G you are expressing your own line, and at the end you provide counterpoint to the violin as the intensity of the movement winds down to a calmer state.

The most important thing to prepare in the second movement is the cadenza. I like to imagine Arabian and near-east culture, like a bangled belly-dancer to get the mood that I think is appropriate to this passage. Swing your hips a little! Play the quarter-note triplets of each of the three calls with increasing space - i.e. the last one slowest (and most grand) of all. The slur is only there for grouping, and the notes should be articulated. Also make your accelerandi and crescendi more extreme with each call: Start less slow and soft and get less fast and loud for the first, and shortest, one. Get more extreme for each of the following calls, until for the last call you start very slow and very soft. Some accenting of strong-notes in the passage can add to the hip-swinging feeling. Make sure the big-noted triplets that end the first two calls are faster than the rit. triplets that precede them, and be sure to make a sizeable and clear accent. Take the time you need for the enormous breaths you will need between the calls. The last call ends a bit differently. Small air accents on the last three notes before G can help the clarity, and the tenuto can be long if you like (or the conductor likes).

The third movement clarinet part starts with some wonderful flourishes for the clarinet. Make sure you're smooth and clear. Practice with a metronome to make sure your timing is good. Slow down a little at the top notes to make some beautiful phrasing and rubato. At auditions, the passage at D needs to really be ppp, but you're likely to have to play it louder in the orchestra - see what you can get away with though. Superior abdominal air support and consistent jaw and embochure pressure will make all the long notes and register crossings easier - this is also true for the passage at G. Don't forget the accents, shortness, or crescendo. Some auditions stop at F before going on to G, and others go an additional 4 measures for the triplets. Some even include the whole passage until I. The part at G is the most difficult, although it is only soli. Remember it's p not pp, but in an audition they really are looking for how softly you can play this while still controlled. Don't rush the sixteenth-note D-sharp, and use a reliable high G fingering for short, soft, and in-tune. I use fifth-partial G with the right-hand sliver key. The tempo of this part of the movement has significant variation from conductor to conductor. Be ready to play it slower or faster if they ask, and if you can, research the tempo that the orchestra/conductor you are auditioning for plays. Choose a tempo at neither extreme, based on any research you can do, and at which you feel more comfortable. I find faster is easier.

The last movement is fast, fun, and ends with a reprise of first-movement material. The only part usually on auditions is letter I. The technical term for this is "pinky twister." Unless you have real problems with right-hand C-sharp, or coordinating it with E-flat, I would stay with right-hand C-sharp until bar 9 after I where you need to use the left-hand C-sharp. If you have a left-hand E-flat, you have more choices to use fingerings that work for you. A little mental (or slight physical) tenuto on the first note of each slur (especially the third one) will keep you from rushing the beginnings of every four bars. This passage is VERY fast, but is perfectly made for uneven practice to smooth out the bumps. If your right hand gets tired from practicing this, don't over practice, but alternate it with something that tires your left-hand out, like Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4 or the end of Daphnis and Chloe. Be sure to make extreme crescendi to ff at the top of the hairpins, and be very even with them and the diminuendi.