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ClassicsOnline Home » RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Scheherazade
Holy Grail of Scheherazade recordings
This is the recording that entranced me to the marvel that is Scheherazade. When I was a teen I had a second-hand copy of the original vinyl, and like so much that gets left behind when we grow up, my copy vanished into the ether of fond memories. I knew this Mario Rossi version by heart, but not by name. In the intervening decades, I assumed that I would find recordings at least as charming as this version, but my search has been in vain, for each one of the dozens of versions I've encountered were somehow less than perfectly satisfying. While the others have their moments of exultation, there is some imbalance that stains the experience, whether in tempo, in pacing, in lackluster musicianship, or in affected violin solo. The closest I came to having a truly satisfying Scheherazade experience was a 2000 performance by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra led by Hans Vonk. That is, until last week, when I rediscovered this Vanguard Classics version! The Rossi interpretation is as deeply satisfying now as I remember from decades ago, doing justice to Rimsky-Korsakov's intricate orchestration and seductive Oriental melodies without any moment of strain from the musicians. The lines are clean, expressing well the feeling of tales of adventure from old Persia, but without being overwrought, inflated, or ostentatious.
After his 2000 performance I told Hans Vonk that his interpretation that night came closest to what it would sound like if I were to conduct Scheherazade. He responded that a conductor can get no higher praise than that. Now that I've rediscovered the Rossi version, I think the latter interpretation is even closer to how my version would sound, but with one exception. The third movement is suitably nimble, the quickest of any of the recordings I've heard to date, but if it were me conducting, I would slow the pace slightly, especially the first half of the movement. But that minor flaw is not enough to detract from my five-star assessment.more....
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