Sheherazade, Op. 35/Rimsky-Korsakov

March 16, 2011

One of the first classical recordings I purchased was a recording of this orchestral masterpiece also spelled Scheherazade on the RCA label with Pierre Monteux conducting the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. I immediately fell in love with it and have enjoyed it for well over fifty years. This latest recording from Naxos with the Seattle Symphony conducted by Gerard Schwarz and featuring Maria Larionoff on violin would be a fine addition to your collection especially if Scheherazade isn’t already part of your collection. In my opinion it is a must have as it is likely the finest example of orchestral symphonic writing ever. Written during a very productive time in his composing career the work is loosely based on the tales of the Arabian nights with the violin solo usually performed by the concertmaster of the orchestra being the voice of Scheherazade who would tell a tale each night so that her life would be spared.

 

The work is divided into four parts each movement being given a separate name. “The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship” is played at a slower pace than others I’ve heard and I like hearing it both ways. The slower pace gives certain phrasing a more distinct and precise sound which I find easier to listen to. The orchestra in the performing of the short individual solos from the flute, French horn, clarinet, oboe, and violin are nicely recorded and play it well. While it was slow I didn’t feel as if it dragged along or sound like they were laboring at all. “The Kalender Prince” begins with a wonderful solo from Larionoff very well played and recorded. The pace on this movement is somewhat faster and more what I’m use to listening to. The brass section plays well in their passages where they are featured. The same can be said about “The Young Prince and the Princess” which is a lush romantic section of the work featuring the strings. “Festival at Baghdad-The Sea,” the final movement, is one of swirling and tension with the orchestra in some parts almost at a breakneck pace. The orchestra has definitely warmed up. The finale of the movement returns us back to the original theme.

 

The Tale of Tsar Saltan (Suite) was written twelve years after and is an opera based on another fairy tale. The suite is of course taken from it and includes the often performed ”Flight of the Bumblebee” which is not just played by classical ensembles but all types of swing, jazz, and rock groups. The opening movement is festive and magical, the middle movement dark and mysterious, and the final movement is filled with joy and wonder. All three begin with a majestic trumpet fanfare as an introduction. The twenty minute work is definitely more than filler material and the Seattle symphony sounded well rehearsed.

 

Both works have to be given high marks for playing and recording. The percussion is crisp and clean sounding, the brass bright, and the strings and woodwinds smooth. For us veterans of classical music it would be very hard for any of us to discard our favorite recording over this one. However, I could certainly make a case that you should at least consider this one. Recommended.

 

 

Scheherazade, Op. 35

1. I. The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship 00:10:46

 

 

2. II. The Kalender Prince 00:11:34

 

 

3. III. The Young Prince and the Young Princess00:10:43

 

Scheherazade, Op. 35

4. IV. Festival at Baghdad – The Sea 00:12:48

 

Tale of Tsar Saltan Suite, Op. 57

5. I. The Tsar’s Farewell and Departure 00:04:41

 

 

6. II. The Tsarina in a Barrel at Sea 00:07:20

 

 

7. III. The Three Wonders 00:07:14

 

 

8. Tale of Tsar Saltan, Op. 57: Flight of the Bumblebee 00:01:31

 

 

 

 

Total Playing Time: 01:06:37

 

 

 

 

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