In a Persian Market

The story “In a Persian Market” is a piece of light classical music for orchestra with optional chorus by the English composer, conductor and pianist Albert Ketèbey who composed it in 1920. Subtitled Intermezzo Scene, it was published in 1921.Originally, it evoked exotic images of camel-drivers, jugglers, and snake-charmers. When it was first published in a version for piano, it was advertised as an “educational novelty.”

A synopsis of scenes by the composer mentions a caravan arriving, beggars, a princess carried by servants, jugglers, snake-charmers, and a caliph. After the princess and the caliph have left, a muezzin calls to prayer from a minaret. The caravan continues its journey, and the market becomes silent. The duration is around six minutes.

An opening march shares “exotic” intervals, A – B – flat – E, with the composer’s orientalintermezzo Wonga, used for the play Ye Gods in 1916. A chorus of beggars sings: ” Baksheesh, baksheesh Allah”; passers-by sing “Empshi” (“get away”). A romantic theme portrays the princess, similar to Stravinsky’s Firebird. Trumpets announce the caliph. The concluding section “Call to prayer” of 22 measures was added later.

The music was first announced in Musical Opinion in January 1921 as a piano piece, in a section “Educational novelties”. Half a year later, Bosworth printed the orchestral version.

In a Persian Market has been regarded as a work of orchestral impressionsm. The work has been used as theatre music for comic oriental scenes, used in sketches by Morecambe and Wise, and by The Two Ronnies, and also in schools as theatrical repertory.

The music: Arranger, sometime trumpeter and trombonist, and the leader of a band during the swing era, Larry Clinton recalled “In a Persian Market” from his childhood. But when he pondered how to approach this tune in the late 1930s, he had been immersed in the music of the swing era for several years. First, he wrote arrangements for the very successful Casa Loma band, then for Tommy Dorsey’s band, which in the late 1930s was a quite capable swing unit that played a wide variety of music. Clinton scored a number of hits for TD, including “The Dipsy Doodle,” and “Satan Takes a Holiday.” Bunny Berigan made a memorable recording of Clinton’s “A Study in Brown” in 1937. In late 1937, Clinton began leading his own band.

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