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Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade / Borodin: Polovtsian Dances ('Prince Igor') Original recording remastered

4.6 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, May 4, 1999
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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Scheherazade, Op.35: The Sea and Sinbad's Ship
  2. Scheherazade, Op.35: The Story of the Kalender Prince
  3. Scheherazade, Op.35: The Young Prince and the Young Princess
  4. Steven Staryk: The Festival of Bagdad - The Sea - The Ship goes to pieces on a Rock surmounted by a Bronze Warrior
  5. Polovtsian Dances ('Prince Igor', Act ll): Introduction: Andantino
  6. Polovtsian Dances ('Prince Igor', Act ll): Allegro vivo
  7. Polovtsian Dances ('Prince Igor', Act ll): Allegro
  8. Polovtsian Dances ('Prince Igor', Act ll): Presto
  9. Polovtsian Dances ('Prince Igor', Act ll): Moderato alla breve
  10. Polovtsian Dances ('Prince Igor', Act ll): Presto
  11. Polovtsian Dances ('Prince Igor', Act ll): Allegro con spirito


Product Details

  • Orchestra: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: Thomas Beecham
  • Composer: Alexander Borodin, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
  • Audio CD (May 4, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording remastered
  • Label: EMI Classics
  • ASIN: B00000IOBM
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,382 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Sir Thomas Beecham's recording was my first Scheherazade CD. In many ways it remains an outstanding performance of Rimsky's beloved masterpiece. There is a pleasing suppleness to the musical phrasing, an irresistible propulsion from start to finish, and much attention to detail. Having had access to the CD section of a music library, I have hear many other Scheherazades and few, in my opinion, manage to even equal Beecham's reading. Mackerras' and Kondrashin's modern versions are its main rivals. Get all three of these if you can, each is indispensable in its own way.
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.
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Format: Audio CD
This review is basically the same as the one I wrote for an earlier CD

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).
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Format: Audio CD
Sir Thomas Beecham was well-known for his fondness for colorful music. He was outstanding in French and Russian repertoire (as well as in Sibelius, of course). This is probably the finest available recording of Rimsky's often-recorded chestnut (competition includes Ansermet's famous account on Decca), though the 1950s sound isn't quite up to some recent accounts by Russian orchestras. All in all, though, this is highly recommended,and the mid-range price makes it very attractive.
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Format: Audio CD
Originally posted on my music review blog. Check my profile if you are interested.

---
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.
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