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Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade / Borodin: Polovtsian Dances ('Prince Igor') Original recording remastered
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With regards to the recording acoustics, there has been an on-going tendency of lovers of Beecham's disc to proclaim its superiority over Mackerras, Kondrashin's or any other modern digital version by citing Beecham's attention to detail. In actuality that has a lot to do with the primitive closely-miked recording techniques employed by 1950s EMI engineers. As a result you get to oooh-and-ahh when you hear the delicious close-up bowing of the cellos and violas in the quieter passages of the first movement. However, when the rest of the orchestra (especially the brass) start joining in, you then realize (horrors!) the congested acoustics of this recording. Be not mistaken, this is a finely-reburbished 1950s recording, but it cannot touch the naturally distanced/proportioned, spacious acoustics of digital discs like Mackerras'. Do not be fooled, like some professional critics have been, that the wealth of close-up instrumental details available in Beecham's CD means that his performance is superior to modern CDs. (This is how we get all of this perpetuated rubbish that ALL vintage 50s CDs can never be surpassed. Hmph.)
In summary, this vintage Scheherazade is one not to be without but ideally it should also not be the single version in your music collection. A finely recorded modern version of Scheherazade is also a must.
reissue of this fine recording. Now that it has been rereleased as a
Great Recording of the Century, it will get the attention it deserves.
Beecham's recording of Scheherazade has not been out of print ever since
it was first released in 1958. It is quite simply the best recording of
Rimsky-Korsakov's finest work. The sound quality of the recording is
excellent for its time, and the engineers for the CD have done a good
job. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra plays fabulously well, and
Beecham brings out all of the mystery, sensuality and barbarism that
used to be associated with the Orient. The notes that come with the
recording describe it best: "extraordinarily charismatic". It is not an
exaggeration. No one does the violin solos better than concertmaster
Steven Staryk, and Jack Brymer's clarinet solos are also brillant.
As a bonus, this CD also has the best recording of Borodin's Polovtsian
Dances I have ever heard. Unlike most recordings of these dances,
excerpted from "Prince Igor", it includes the choral voices just as they
are in the opera (in English, rather than Russian, though).
Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Scheherazade' is a wonderful, intoxicating piece of music. Standing as the composer's most beloved composition, its picturesque Orientalism--realized through brilliant, inventive orchestration and an outpouring of exotic melody--lends itself perfectly to conductors' varied styles. Listeners adore comparing performances--invariably, Reiner's recording is extolled for its technical excellence, Stokowski's for its mysticism, and Svetlanov's for its 100% genuine Russian bombast.
Yet, even in such a crowded field, this present performance by Sir Thomas Beecham is perhaps the most universally admired recording of 'Scheherazade.' In fact, it is so admired that even the colossal ego in Herbert von Karajan initially declined to record the work, remarking that Beecham's interpretation could not be improved upon.
Frankly, the praise is bit overdone. This is not to say that this is a bad recording--by no means! Beecham was one of those conductors who could seemingly do no wrong, and there is certainly nothing wrong here, per se. But for comparison, let us draw upon one of Scheherazade's very best performances--Ernest Ansermet's lamentably rare 1954 recording with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra.
Take the opening few bars. The Sultan's theme roars out of the brass, and Scheherazade's voice--symbolized by the haunting violin solo that unifies all four movements--responds, spinning the first of her tales, 'The Sea and Sinbad's Ship.' Beecham's opening shows the maestro in classic form, smoothly propelling the metallic, ominous sound of the brass with a very musical and masculine snap.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A classic performance - and rightly so. Recording holds up surprisingly well. The works brio and panache constantly come to mind. Beecham was in his element in this music.Published 16 months ago by VicinSF
I enjoyed the power of this recording and recalled a live performance at the State Cinemas in Kilburn,London and how Sir Thomas Beecham would conduct without a baton punching the... Read morePublished on October 15, 2008 by R
Of all the recordings of Scheherazade by Rismsky-Korsakov, the one conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham is the performance that is most generous to his musicians. Read morePublished on April 29, 2007 by D. Sandoval
Beecham conducted music with a smile, a rare gift that other conductors who possess better techniques and more virtuosic orchestras must envy. Read morePublished on July 13, 2006 by Santa Fe Listener
Years and years ago I came across Beecham's wonderful recording of Rimsky-Korsakov's most famous piece while listening to NPR. Read morePublished on November 1, 2002