RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Sheherazade BALAKIREV Islamey
The Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra (Borusan is the group of companies that sponsored it) has in its 15 years of existence developed into a fine ensemble, concentrating so far in its recordings on works that have some kind of oriental provenance – never mind if that invites the pejorative charge of Orientalism. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade is an obvious candidate for inclusion. It is a work that well demonstrates the orchestra’s virtues, which include not only a fine set of principals who have their individual voices in the brightly hued scoring but an overall warmth of tone and precision of ensemble and intonation that are hard won by newly formed orchestras. This is an attractive performance, vigorous of impulse and, in the third movement, which the composer at one stage designated ‘The Young Prince and Princess’, pleasantly sensuous. The performance makes its own contribution by linking pairs of movements with plucked chords picking up the closing harp chords, perhaps suggesting that the narrating princess is, bard-like, readying herself for the next telling of a tale. It may be uncanonical but it is a nice idea.
Balakirev’s Islamey, in Lyapunov’s virtuoso orchestration, makes a natural companion, not least since one of its themes was picked up by Rimsky-Korsakov in Sheherazade, and Sascha Goetzel takes it at full tilt here. Two of Ippolitov-Ivanov’s colourful picture-postcard Caucasian Sketches also fit naturally into the proceedings. So far, and this is its third on Onyx, the orchestra has not made recordings of Turkish music. The brief and rather noisy suite by Ulvi Cemal Erkin (1906-72), hung about with clatters of percussion and wailing oriental scales with augmented intervals, seems an odd choice for the orchestra’s unquestionable excellence and seriousness of purpose.