Rimsky-Korsakov: Sheherazade; Russian Easter Festival Overture

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rimsky-Korsakov
LABELS: Telarc
WORKS: Sheherazade; Russian Easter Festival Overture
PERFORMER: Atlanta SO/Robert Spano
Atlanta is lucky to have Robert Spano as its orchestra’s music director, as this unashamed showcase handsomely attests. He already brings a focused sheen, if not as yet a weight, to the string sound – notable as the narrative of Rimsky-Korsakov’s ‘Kalender Prince’ takes wing – with likeably old-fashioned portamenti in the violin phrases suggesting an attempt to recreate the famous Philadelphia sound. The Stokowski touch, I assume, is at work as the slow movement’s languor reaches its zenith and the violins take their line up an octave. A few other minor oddities briefly give pause for thought; why, for example, the exposed low bassoon note between the first movement’s final chords? Otherwise, it’s a straightforward reading which rightly allows the soloists –not just the super-subtle feminine leader but all the winds – free expression.


What’s missing is the physicality of the imagery you find in truly great performances like Beecham’s, where you can feel the billowing of the ocean beneath Sinbad’s ship or the white heat of the sultan’s impatience as Sheherazade embroiders her tales ever more desperately; with Spano, you can’t, quite. Still, there’s plenty to intrigue both here and in a Russian Easter Festival Overture which makes the most of contrast in the variations on an orthodox theme (again, the individual players are superb). The recording, as you might expect from Telarc, is state-of-the-art, enhancing Spano’s quest for detailed textures. David Nice