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Rimsky-Korsakov: SCHEHERAZADE

4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 12, 1999
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Product Details

  • Performer: Joakim Svenheden
  • Orchestra: London Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: José Serebrier
  • Composer: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
  • Audio CD (October 12, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Reference Recordings
  • ASIN: B00001X52M
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,037 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Does the music-buying public need yet another recording of Scheherazade? The short answer is a resounding "yes!" when it is performed this well, coupled with Rimsky-Korsakov's Great Russian Easter Overture as it is here, with state-of-the-art sound quality for which Reference Recordings is justly famous. Even though a quick search at Amazon.com turns up over eighty available recordings which include Scheherazade, or some portion of it. So some explanation is in order.

José Serebrier, early in his career, was Leopold Stokowski's assistant. Both of these pieces were recorded several times by Stokowski. (Stokowski recorded Scheherazade six times, and provided an astonishing recording of the Great Russian Easter Overture late in his career, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on RCA Victor, coupled with the world premiere recording of Khatchaturian's Symphony No. 3.) So it is perhaps only natural that Serebrier would eventually turn to these two pieces to add to his own recordings posterity.

The booklet notes by Serebrier set out in detail his efforts to arrive at an authoritative performance of Scheherazade, including not only review of all of Stokowski's recordings but those of such stalwarts of Scheherazade performances as Ansermet, Beecham, Bernstein, Monteux and Reiner. Then, working with the London Philharmonic orchestral score, obviously a palimpsest of accumulated markings by other conductors over the years, he "scrubbed clean" the score and the instrument parts to arrive at a clean sheet, a "tabula rasa," as the basis for this performance. The result is a Scheherazade that is faithful to the original intentions of Rimsky-Korsakov, right down to every detail of orchestration, tempi and dynamics.
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Format: Audio CD
I have a weak spot for Scheherazade. That may explain why I own seven difference performances of this piece. Every time I listen, I discover something new. Much of that "newness" has to do with conductor prerogative, but the music itself has such rich orchestration, it is hard to assimilate all the nuances and all the richness that Scheherazade offers. Now, with the addition of this recording by Jose Serebrier, I am faced with the daunting challenge of rediscovering all the beauty and subtleties again. And the sonics on this CD make the subtleties all the more available. This interpretation of Scheherazade is achingly beautiful. The tempo is perfect, the accents stimulate your imagination, and according to Mr. Serebrier, this is the way Rimsky-Korsakov meant it to be presented. Added to this is the hands-down, best performance of the Russian Easter Overture ever.
This is another flawless release from Reference Recordings. When sonic engineering exceeds the level of "excellent" as it does here, I must resort to the term "superb." There is the "DG sound" and the "Telarc sound," but this is clarity at its best. I cannot call this the "Reference sound" because there is no sonic signature. This is just pure and clean. Did I say superb? I meant to.
Rarely does a CD exceed all expectations, but this is definitely one of those rare finds.
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Format: Audio CD
This is an absolutely extraordinary recording inn every sense. The sound is perfect, even for RR, which has been making the best-sounding classical CD's for years, and the performance by the LPO is magnificent. A must have recording!
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I purchased this recording after reading reviews proclaiming that it was no less than the definitive recording of Scheherezade. I hope for the sake of my appreciation for the work that this recording is not in fact definitive. I have not studied the score of the work, but the tempo in this recording is molto allegro, and the dynamics tend toward a near mezzo piano monotone. Lush and fantastical, two adjectives that I associate with this work, do not describe this rather physically and emotionally brisk recording. If this IS in fact the definitive recording, then those conductors who have taken a more romantic approach to the work have only enhanced the work. One might do better to spend the money for this expensive disc on two less expensive and yet richer recordings.
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Format: Audio CD
Although I find this music pleasant to listen to from time to time, I will readily confess that it is not something I listen to very often. In fact, when I went to pull my Mackerras/Telarc recording off the shelf to do a quick comparison, I could not find it. Although that CD might be near the bottom of one of the innumerable piles of CDs scattered around my listening room, more likely I decided to trade it in. But that's OK, because whenever I get the itch to hear Scheherazade, this new CD from Reference Recordings will scratch it just fine (and the CD also includes a rendition of the Russian Easter Overture, a stirring piece of music that is always great fun to listen to when it is this well-recorded).

We have begun to take good sound from this source as a matter of course, and this HDCD-encoded disk lives up to the high RR standard. But one thing I noted right away in auditioning this disk is that conductor José Serebrier never seems to be conducting these pieces for mere sonic effect. He seems to treat them as serious music, not as merely orchestral sonic showpieces. The same goes for engineer Keith Johnson. There are no bass drum whacks recorded in such a way that they seem to be jarring just for the sake of being jarring.

This theme of honesty even carries over into the liner notes, wherein Serebrier contributes a fascinating essay that considers not only Rimsky-Korsakov's music, but also the way it has been conducted and recorded over the years. He mentions several notable recordings and shares his observations about what he thinks the strengths and drawbacks of each are. How interesting--and how rare! If you are a big fan of Scheherazade, the liner notes by themselves are worth the price of the CD, making the CD itself a bonus, and the whole package a remarkable value.
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