wr: I think that Islamey is a bit too simple for me, along with the rather strong (fake) ethnic elements... I happened to (re-)listen to the rite of Spring tonight and this is why I'm posting. That masterpiece has SO many different things going on that are brilliant, that it's impossible to compare it with Islamey. Polytonality, Polyrhythms, orchestration, time signatures to name but a few... In Islamey you get the same thing over and over again, in the same tonality, the same rhythm, etc... :-/
(BTW, I don't really enjoy too much Liszt either, except for some late works (and the sonata) that linger the more 'atonal' stuff and get further away from ethnic elements)
Well, of course, Islamey was written in the 1860's and the Rite was premiered in 1913. In some ways, Balakirev's folkloric work (not just in Islamey) helped to set the stage for the Rite and make it possible. And too, Balakirev was not a once-in-a-century creative genius of Stravinsky's caliber, either. So, yes, I agree - directly comparing Islamey to the Rite is nonsense.
But I wasn't trying to compare them as music, but just trying get at whatever issue it is you have with "ethnic" music being used in a "classical" context. Which I still don't understand.
The folk tunes in Islamey aren't fake, they are real. The setting is not fake, either, it's concert music for a virtuoso pianist to play. I don't think anyone imagines that they are hearing a folk musician performing when it is played, anymore than anyone imagines that the orchestra of Copland's Appalachian Spring is made up of Shakers. In other words, I don't think it's falsification of the music, anymore than, say, writing variations on Paganini's famous caprice would be a falsification of his piece.