The Tone Poem

scherezade planets

The Tone Poem is typically a shorter work based upon a story or possible an object or person.  One of the best known and loved tone poems is a work written by a fellow by the name of Noicklai Rimsky-Korsakov and it is called "Scherezade".  The story behind Scherezade is the same as "1001  Arabian Nights".  Without going over the entire story, the four movements are titled "The Sea and Sinbad's Ship",  "The Tale of the Kalendar Prince", "The Young Prince and Princess",  and "Festival at Baghdad - The Sea - Shipwreck on a Rock".  Sadly the recording that I would recommend is one conducted by  Lorin Maazel on the DG label and is out of print.  I have not found a better recording.  A good second choice is Philips  289 470 840-2.  This is one of my favorite works and I hope it is one of yours as well.  There is another work on this CD called "In the Steppes of Central Asia".  This work was written by Alexander Borodin, who wrote is after he had retired as a physician.  It is a nice work and is quite list enable and good.


Another tone poem that is quite popular is titled "The Planets" by Gustav Holst.  The first Movement, "Mars - Bringer of War" depicts war quite vividly.  I must admit that it took a few listenings for me to "get" the rest of it.  It is an essential work.  Both of the CDs pictured are good but I think James Levine is more true to what Gustav Holst intended. 

la mer Debussy

Another tone poem is "La Mer" which means The Sea in french.  The man's name who wrote this is Claude Debussy (pronounced day-bu-say).  If you probably guessed, he was french.  The recordings that I like the best are the ones pictured above.  The catalog number is 471332-2 and is on the DG label.  The fist is "La Mer" and the second is the suite Pelleas et Melisande.   I think you will like this recording.  There are many wonderful themes on this recording.  You might even hear some that have been used in some movies.

Orchestral Spectaculars

The CD "Orchestral Spectaculars" is a bit of a shift from what has been listed so far.   It is a collection of various works that have been heard in everything from cartoons to Stock Market reports.  Be that as it may, there is one track on here that falls into the Tone Poem category and that is Paul Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice".  This delightful work was recorded added to with pictures by the Walt Disney Company for a film called "Fantasia".  In this case a lazy and mischievous apprentice (Mickey Mouse) is working for a Sorcerer.  His tasks are menial and boring.  On of his tasks is to tote buckets of water to refill the cistern located several feet away from the well outside.  After a few buckets of water Mickey tires and gets the idea of casting a magic spell on the broom and to let the broom fetch the requisite buckets of water.  After reading the sorcerers book of spells he casts the spell on the broom and all goes well until the cistern is filled and overflowing.  He tries to undo the spell and cannot so he takes an axe and chops the broom and bucket into little splinters.  This backfires as now each splinter grows into multiple full sized brooms all with buckets.  The multiple brooms armed with buckets then proceed to pick up where they left off hauling water in and causing a huge flood.  Dead panic sets in for Mickey and just when things were at their worst, the Sorcerer arrives and then proceeds to cast multiple spells to put things right again.  After much effort on the part of the Sorcerer things, are quiet and he then points to Mickey to begin again and start hauling water.  As a sheepish Mickey turns to leave the Sorcerer give him a swat with the broom to remind him that that the Sorcerers wishes are to be obeyed. 


I recommend that you see the film Fantasia if you haven't already.  It is a classic film unlike any other you have seen.  The music for the film was conducted by Leopold Stokowski and performed by ????????????.

The tone poem is closely related to the Overture.  An overture is an introduction to a larger work that includes most in not all of the melodies that will be heard during the performance.  It is also related to the Suite. Now if this seems like an awful lot to remember, it really isn't.  If you happen to really start liking classical music, this will come naturally to you.  You might also find that certain types of classical or orchestral music really appeals to you.  I met a fellow once that only listened to opera and "show tunes".  I have thought about that fellow on more than one occasion and I feel sorry for him.   There is so much wonderful music to be listened to it is almost endless.  But sad to say, there is an end to classical music.  There will likely come a point in time when one has all of the works by all of the composers.  When that happens it is time to listen to the stuff you have bought that you really didn't connect with the last time you listened to it.