Rimsky-Korsakov Orchestral Works

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Rimsky-Korsakov Orchestral Works

  • Scheherazade
  • Capriccio espagnol

The first point to distinguish this powerful new coupling of Scheherazade and Capriccio espagnol, from Jansons and the LPO, is the weight and richness of the recording. I count it as one of EMI's finest, not as analytically transparent as some but vivid and immediate with a thrillingly wide dynamic range. Not that detail is lacking: I was fascinated to register the castanets very clearly at the end of the final ''Fandango'' of the Capriccio, normally obscured in the general hubbub. As to Jansons's interpretation of the main work, he follows up the big bold, brassy opening with a surprisingly restrained account of the main theme as it develops, keeping power in reserve, building up more slowly than usual. What then is consistently striking in all four movements is Jansons's pointing of rhythm, lilting, bouncy and affectionate in a way that distinguishes this from most other versions. This is a Scheherazade that dances winningly, less earnest than usual, often suggesting a smile on the face.
That I find very welcome in a work that, for all its exotic colour and memorable themes, needs persuasive handling if it is not to seem like a lot of introductions leading to introductions, and codas leading to codas, with little meat in the middle. Jansons's control of structure leads to a masterly sense of resolution at the great climax towards the end of the finale, as the main theme returns fortissimo. Nowhere does this seem like a virtuoso exercise, brilliant as the playing of the LPO is, not least that of the warmly expressive violin soloist, Joakim Svenheden. Rather, emotionally involved, Jansons finds a rare exuberance in Rimsky-Korsakov's stream of ideas and colours, leading compellingly from one to another.
The Capriccio espagnol brings a similar combination of expressive warmth and exuberance. My main comparison has been with Dutoit and the Montreal orchestra, and it is fascinating to find in the brilliant ''Alborada'' at the beginning of the Capriccio that though Jansons's speed is almost identical, it does not seem nearly so hectic, when with such springy rhythms it is made to sound relaxed, jolly rather than fierce. Not that in either work is there any shortage of biting excitement. Particularly in Scheherazade choice between versions leaves many options open, but this warmly distinctive account with its opulent sound clearly stands among the strongest contenders. R1 '9507047'

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