Capriccio espagnol, Op. 34; Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op. 36; Scheherazade, Op. 35
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
Lawo LWC1198 74:57 min
Here is an attractive modern recording of Rimsky-Korsakov’s three most popular orchestral works. A wonderfully exuberant and sunny Capriccio Espagnol, followed in total contrast by the Russian Easter Festival Overture, more pagan than Christian with its magically scored episodes and hypnotic repetitions.
Vasily Petrenko and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra offer a polished and mostly straightforward account of the symphonic suite Scheherazade, with the violin solos representing the heroine attractively played by the orchestra’s leader, Elise Båtnes. Although producer Andrew Walton’s realistic concert hall balance results in some details of Rimsky’s richly textured score being obscured, the sound is as lovely as the composer surely intended.
My only real disappointment is the third movement, ‘The Young Prince and the Young Princess’. It starts well, Petrenko’s flowing tempo and unsentimental interpretation allowing the melody’s tender expressiveness to tell. But towards the end, at the instruction Pochissimo più animato (‘a little more lively’), Petrenko does not simply go faster but continues to accelerate as if impatient to finish. This is surely against the music’s character: with its beguiling variation of the earlier procession and its sighing phrases, its poignancy lies in the sense that, even as time presses on, the lovers long for their moment together to linger if not stand still. Hence the would-be closing phrase heard no less than four times, two of them after the significant instruction Poco rit (‘more slowly’). As it is, Petrenko insensitively charges up to that instruction, then suddenly slows down. A pity, because otherwise this is a lovely album.