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RIMSKY-KORSAKOV, N.A.: Scheherazade / Tale of Tsar Saltan Suite (Seattle Symphony, Schwarz)

Composer(s):Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolay Andreyevich
Artist(s) Schwarz, Gerard, Conductor • Seattle Symphony OrchestraLarionoff, Maria, violin
Period(s) Romantic
Genre Classical Music
Category Orchestral
Catalogue 8.572693
Label Naxos
Quality   320kbps
Download and Stream

Described by the composer as a kaleidoscope of fairy-tale images and designs of oriental character, Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic suite Sheherazade has delighted listeners for generations. The rapturous solo violin plays the part of the slave who narrates the wonderful tales of the Arabian Nights, including the adventures of Sinbad, Prince Kalender and the Festival of Baghdad. The suite, or ‘musical pictures’, from The Tale of Tsar Saltan depicts episodes from this magical opera, from which the mischievous Flight of the Bumblebee is also drawn. The Seattle Symphony is one of the world’s most recorded orchestras, with 12 GRAMMY® nominations and two Emmy Awards.


Review By Brian Wilson,MusicWeb International,March 2011

My first thought was to wonder if this new recording could match or even excel Naxos’s incumbent version (Philharmonia/Bátiz, also with the Tsar Saltan Suite, 8.550726)—and then if it could do the same to the classic Beecham and Reiner recordings, on EMI 5669832, with Borodin Polovtsian Dances, and RCA 88697700362, with Stravinsky Rossignol, respectively. The answer is yes to the former, but the jury is still out for me on the second count: I never wish to be without either or both of those recordings, elderly though they now are. I do think, however, that Monteux’s recording—no longer available, in any case—is now too dated, for all that I have enjoyed

The new version is a full-blooded performance in full-bodied sound; though it doesn’t neglect the more tender moments, it does stress the drama, whereas Beecham captures both the dramatic and emotive aspects of the music slightly more even-handedly. The Tsar Saltan Suite and the Flight of the Bumblebee make excellent fillers.

The Naxos has a price advantage over Beecham and Reiner, both on CD and as a download—in fact, I couldn’t find the Reiner currently on offer as a download and the Beecham seems to have disappeared from Passionato, though it’s available for £5.99 in mp3 from HMV Digital.


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