ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
NIKOLAI RIMSKY-KORSAKOV - Scheherazade


NIKOLAI RIMSKY-KORSAKOV - Scheherazade, Op. 35 - Jonathan Crow (Violin) - Toronto Symphony Orchestra - Peter Oundjian (Conductor) - 095115514528 - Released: August 2014 - Chandos CHSA5145

The symphonic suite Scheherazade by Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov has always been, and continues to be, one of the most popular orchestral showpieces of all time, both in concert and on recordings. Not only does it have memorable tunes that evoke vivid imagery of Arabian folklore, but also showcases an orchestra's brilliance and savoir-faire. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, one of Canada's top orchestras, has certainly not been well served as far as recordings are concerned, especially when you compare it to the Montreal Symphony. I can vaguely remember some recordings on RCA way back when Seiji Ozawa was their principal conductor, some on CBC Records and EMI with Sir Andrew Davis, and more recently some on the Finlandia label with Jukka-Pekka Saraste and on TSO Live with their present conductor, Peter Oundjian. Hopefully, this new recording on the highly-respected Chandos label, the first in a projected series of recordings, will bring them the attention they deserve.

The orchestra does sparkle here, especially during the final movement's more opulent episodes, but I would have to say that what really sets this recording apart from the other good ones (and there are many), is the intuitive, emotional and perceptive playing by violinist Jonathan Crow. After all, the plight of Scheherazade throughout the symphonic narrative is a rather precarious one. Strong in the knowledge that she may not live to tell her stories. Jonathan Crow adds an extra layer of sadness to her persona, and both he and the orchestra end the work with a heavy heart. The final minute is not only brilliantly executed, but very touching as well. It captures well the emotional weight of this 'live' recording. Standing ovation for Peter Oundjian and Jonathan Crow.

Jean-Yves Duperron - September 2014