Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov had a work ethic that bordered on the obsessive, and when inspiration failed him, he would often busy himself by tidying up works from his youth. This habit accounts for the proliferation of versions of Antar. This work was composed between January and August 1868, and premiered in March of the next year. After a few alterations, it was published in 1880 as his Second Symphony. However, in the “new edition” of 1903, which was dated 1897, “Antar” was substantially revised and called a symphonic suite, with the words Second Symphony in a parenthetical subtitle. In 1913, a final version of Antar came out, called simply a “Symphonic Suite,” as Rimsky-Korsakov had decided that Antar was “a poem, suite, fairy tale, story, anything you like, but not a symphony.” The final version changes the key of the second movement and has more refined and detailed orchestration. However, the earlier version may best preserve the freshness of Rimsky-Korsakov’s response to the myth of Antar, a great warrior from Arabian literature.
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra/Lucasz Borowicz.