Notes and Editorial Reviews
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]
Works on This Recording
Prince Igor: Polovtsian Dances by Alexander Borodin
Sir Thomas Beecham
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,
Beecham Choral Society
Date of Recording: 1956
Scheherazade, Op. 35 by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Steven Staryk (Violin)
Sir Thomas Beecham
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1888; Russia
Date of Recording: 1957
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