Antar was the subtitle of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Second Symphony (1867–68), so when Ravel was asked in 1910 to write incidental music for a play about the 6th-century Arabic warrior-poet, he turned to the Russian maestro’s piece for inspiration. Ravel’s incidental music, however, needed a narrative cloak to make it suitable for the concert platform. This was duly supplied in 2014 by the French-Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf. Raymond Bisha guides us through this historic development of the tale of Antar and his beloved Abla, the Romeo and Juliet of the Arab world.
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