ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Rimsky-Korsakov - Scheherazade

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NIKOLAI RIMSKY-KORSAKOV - Scheherazade - Russian Easter Festival Overture - Charles Dutoit (Conductor) - Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - 880040406426 - Released: October 2010 -
Onyx 4064


Within his recently appointed post of artistic director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, an ensemble he has collaborated with many times before and with which he's produced some excellent recordings way back in the 1970s, conductor Charles Dutoit revisits an old friend and crowd-pleaser, Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov. Music by French and Russian composers certainly seemed to suit his conducting style back in his award winning days with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and in fact, this work in particular was one of his best-selling recordings.

This new recording opens with an impressive and opulent brass introduction portraying the Sultan's character, immediately followed by Scheherazade's own beautiful and lyrical theme on solo violin played here by the orchestra's leader and first violin, Clio Gould. This is a piece of music based on elements found in a collection of episodes from 1001 Arabian Nights, and is meant to evoke images of epic and heroic Arabian legends. The final movement in particular is an orchestral tour de force that requires everyone on board, from the percussionist tapping a tambourine to the piccolo player, to give it all they've got, and deliver it all with pinpoint accuracy. Crashing waves and wind blown sails, this orchestra makes it all come alive. From the bassoon depicting the Kalendar Prince to Scheherazade's gripping, long and high solo violin sigh at the end, the essence of ancient Arabia captured by Rimsky-Korsakov's magical orchestration is very well projected in this recording, with the RPO in top form.

This dynamic new Onyx recording captures all of the score's various instrumental nuances very well, and also contains an engaging account of the Russian Easter Festival Overture. This is the first in a planned series of recordings on this label featuring the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Charles Dutoit.

Jean-Yves Duperron - November 2010