WORKS: Sheherazade, Op. 35; Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op. 36
PERFORMER: Royal Philharmonia Orchestra/Charles Dutoit
CATALOGUE NO: Onyx 4064
Any conductor recording Sheherazade with the RPO has to compete with the 1958 Thomas Beecham version, still a contender in its warm and affectionate approach to this colourful score. With the clarity of modern digital sound, Charles Dutoit maximises that element of colour, but I still miss the sense of affection.
Clio Gould’s violin solo has the right capriciousness, though the main theme that follows is metronomic and contrived. Beecham, of course, is not the only conductor to imbue this portrait of the sea with surging dynamics and rubato: taken from the shelves at random, Masur, Ansermet, and Stokowski all find greater depth in the music than is shown here.
Dutoit finds more interest in the second movement, which he brings in most effectively almost without a pause, and, as well as Gould’s solos, there’s some excellent work from other section principals, especially the wind players in the series of cadenzas, which suddenly leap into life, though they’re surrounded by a lack of urgency in tempo and attack in the orchestral tuttis.
Much of the energy missing in Sheherazade finds its way into the Russian Easter Festival Overture, where there’s tension and rhythmic incisiveness. Alas, too late. Martin Cotton