There may be Scheherazades where the waves billow more opulently and the young prince reclines in even more languorous attitudes, but Beecham’s classical instincts pinpoint Rimsky-Korsakov’s disciplined, ineffably well-orchestrated genius. The woodwind soloists, led by Jack Brymer’s subtle clarinet, have free rein to tell their tales in unsurpassable characterisations, and the Sultan’s savagery bites deep. In the Polovtsian Dances, too, the exoticism is in sharp, tangy focus, as if played on Eastern fiddles, while the chorus, who ‘strive to please thee’ in antique translation, thankfully shed their Englishness in their forceful delivery. The recording, always a spacious, airy miracle given its 1956-7 provenance, now has even greaterRead more definition and impact in the remastering.
Performance: 5 (out of 5), Sound: 4 (out of 5)
-- David Nice, BBC Music Magazine
It is now ten years since Beecham's classic recording of Scheherazade was last given a new transfer, when it was issued on EMI Concert Classics. But now this digital remastering satisfyingly brings extra clarity and definition to the 1957 recording without loss of body and none of the fizz on brass-sounds that so disfigures less meticulous digital transfers. There is also the manifest benefit of having Beecham's 1956 recording of the Polovtsian Dances (made in Abbey Road's No. 1 Studio as opposed to London's Kingsway Hall for Scheherazade) as the ideal fill-up.
The obvious comparison is with the other vintage recording of this coupling now transferred to CD—Ansermet's 1960 version with the Suisse Romande Orchestra, in its time counted a brilliant example of Decca sound. The comparison is instructive. The Decca transfer is at a far higher level, brighter but drier too, and the rather sour edge on solo violin suggests a recording made originally overbright to allow for dampening in the process of being transferred to LP. By comparison, the EMI sound for Beecham is warmer and sweeter to match the unique interpretation. Compared with the best modern recordings there is some restriction on string-sound, but woodwind and brass sound thrillingly real, and in the third movement the warm violin melody has a beautiful sheen on it, far smoother in sound—as in interpretation—than with Ansermet.
The one advantage of Ansermet is that he has the brief eighth Polovtsian Dance as well as the choral dance, No. 15, but in that choral dance, quite apart from the flair of Beecham—superb in the interplay of timpani and trombones in the third section—the inclusion of seven separate tracks makes it much more convenient to use. The Karajan/DG version of the same coupling, now reissued on mid-price CD in the Galleria series, brings a rather more modern recording, dating from 1967 in Scheherazade and 1972 in the Polovtsian Dances, but the balance of advantage between these recordings is very close. However, I find the Beecham more comfortable to listen to, with a more realistic atmosphere, particularly in the Polovtsian Dances, where in any case Karajan does not have a chorus. As to the performance: Beecham at almost every point brings both more affection and subtler rhythmic pointing.
-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [9/1987] Read less
Works on This Recording
Scheherazade, Op. 35by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov Performer:
Steven Staryk (Violin)
Sir Thomas Beecham
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1888; Russia Date of Recording: 03/1957 Venue: Kingsway Hall, London, England Length: 45 Minutes 41 Secs.
Prince Igor: Polovtsian Dancesby Alexander Borodin Conductor:
Sir Thomas Beecham
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,
Beecham Choral Society
Period: Romantic Written: Russia Date of Recording: 11/10/1956 Venue: Studio 1, EMI Abbey Road Studiod, London Length: 12 Minutes 15 Secs. Notes: Composition written: Russia (1869 - 1887).
Scheherazade, Op. 35 (1999 Digital Remaster): The Sea and Sinbad's Ship
Scheherazade, Op. 35 (1999 Digital Remaster): The Story of the Kalender Prince
Scheherazade, Op. 35 (1999 Digital Remaster): The Young Prince and the Young Princess
Scheherazade, Op. 35 (1999 Digital Remaster): Festival at Baghdad - The Sea - The Ship goes to pieces on a Rock surmounted by a Bronze Warrior
Polovtsian Dances (from Prince Igor, Act II) (orch. Rimsky-Korsakov & Glazunov): Allegro con spirito
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Good but not great.April 26, 2013By Elliot F. (Granada Hills, CA)See All My Reviews"I bought this recording in this format some time ago. The sound is good, but the stereo is backwards! Somebody wasn't checking the output. The performance is fine but I think just average. The Goossens on Everest (long gone) and the Reiner on RCA are much more exciting and in better overall sound."Report Abuse
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