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The word "Orient" is a nineteenth-century European term, and a concept that carries the lush overtones of mystery, luxury, and exotica. These extravagant narrations of familiar Middle Eastern and Indian poets and Western poets writing about the region harken back to the "mysterious East" of yesteryear. The selections are heavy in meter and rhyme, the narrations are bombastically melodramatic and the musical interludes swell the pulse and the heart. It's all horribly, almost comically, over the top, yet it works wonderfully well, too, in the way old movies and forgotten pop tunes do. The musical selections are especially good, and give focus and purpose - and balance - to what might otherwise be kitsch.
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam, in the famous translation by Edward Fitzgerald, remains one of the most popular poems. It expressed the fascination of Victorian England with the Orient. Here, it forms the main work on the first half of this program, along with other shorter poems by other leading Persian and Indian figures, including Rumi, Sa'di, and Rabindranath Tagore. The second half of the program is devoted to works written by Western poets on the theme of the East with "The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan," an excerpt from Thomas Moore's Lalla Rookh - one of the best sellers of the early 19th century.
(P)1998 NAXOS AudioBooks Ltd.; ©1998 NAXOS AudioBooks Ltd.