Russian army officer Cesar Cui is best known for his avocational life in music – as a composer and music critic. Even though Cui composed in almost all genres of his time his status today in the repertoire is considerably small, based (in the West) primarily on some of his Piano and chamber music – such as the (originally) Violin and Piano piece, Orientale.
Part of Kaleidoscope, a collection of 24 miniatures (most of which are now forgotten), Orientale has been a staple on violinists' and cellists' encore lists for more than a century now. The piece is a prime example of Cui’s strongest talent, the crystallization of mood at an instant in his instrumental miniatures. The 6/8 time Allegretto rides along on a tambourine rhythm set up by the soloist in the opening bars, with the main tune offered by the Piano, and later taken up “with tenderness” by the Cello. As the name suggests this beautiful miniature carries oriental sounds and motives symbolising the mysterious atmosphere of the desert and, with a performance time of under 2 minutes, is a perfect addition to any cellist’s repertoire.