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Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade; Russiam Easter Overture


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67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
Stoki's greatest stereo "Scheherazade" May 1 2007
By Larry VanDeSande - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
For anyone not alive during his lifetime or that hasn't discovered his legend, Leopold Stokowski was one of the most remarkable musicians of the 20th century. Legendary for his score rewriting, his wanton, profligate sexual acumen, his Hollywood reputation (he conducted the score for the Disney film "Fantasia"), and his hundreds of recordings of highly colorful and inflected music like "Scheherazade", Stoki was a one-man show whose reputation was only equalled last century by pianist Artur Rubinstein.

Here's the stereo version of Stokowksi's "Scheherazade" with the Royal Philharmonic that I prefer to his London Symphony Orchestra account that was re-released on Cala about the same time as this came back into circulation. For me, there are two advantages to this issue that make it preferable to the Cala recording:

1. The reocrding has reater depth and more focus on bass line in the concluding movement that renders the overall sound more "Russian" than the London version, whose principal highlight is the outstanding solo work by all the famous soloists. Please note violinist Eric Gruenberg plays the solo part in both recordings.

2. The addition of Stoki's Chicago Symphony Orchestra stereo issue of the "Russian Easter Orchestra" is, in my opinion, a better add-on than the Tchaikovsky included on the London Cala issue. I believe the overture is more temperamentally mated to an hour's listening with Tchaikovsky's "Marche Slav". Add in any old concerto and you have an evening's concert!

Anyone that wants to discover more about Stokowski can look around for his old Philadelphia Orchestra recording in mono that critics have hailed as the most hair-raising version ever of "Scheherazade". For me, this recording has been the most satisfactory performance I've ever heard. It has been in my library continuously since I first acquired it about 1983 on an old RCA Victrola recording. I am pleased it is available again at a low price for a new generation of listeners that never knew Stokowski and his magical wand during his lifetime. He continues to outdo all comers in this music, which was perfectly suited to Stokowski.

For readers just getting introduced to this remarkable conductor, here is a short list of other specialties where Stokowski excelled with his highly perfumed treatments:
-- Resphigi's Pines of Rome once on EMI Classics' The Art of Conducting Vol. 6.
-- Debussy's La Mer reincarnated by ArkivMusic.
-- Wagner bleeding orchestral chunks for opera, especially his various synthesis of orchestral music.
-- Try to locate a copy of his Ride of the Valkyries with the vocal score.
-- Ibert's Escales and other French specialties.
-- Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis.
-- Bach orchestral transcriptions including the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.
-- His own orchestration of Pictures At An Exhibition.
-- Shostakovich Symphony No.11.

Another rule of thumb about Stokowski -- if you are bored listening to any piece of the standard repertory, try ot locate a Stokowski recording to hear it refreshed. You may be shocked and/or dismayed by what he does with the music, but you won't think the same about it again after hearing his rendition.

See my Listmaina list, "Favorite Stokowski CDs", and see Discophage's review of this recording for more recommendations from this musical genius.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Great Example of the Legendary Stokowski Aug. 16 2010
By Roger Lakins - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This recording of the "Scheherazade" was a very pleasant surprise when it was played on WQXR last night. It is a very late example of the legendary conductor's output, made just two years before his death in 1977. I was fortunate enough to have crossed paths with the man twice in the early 1970s, singing in performances with the Westminster Choir that he conducted. For those who have not grown up with his work, this recording is a terrific example. The better you feel you know this work, the bigger the surprise of this performance will be. Stokowski was a "bad boy" as a younger man and a flamboyant, towering figure as a dramatic interpreter of orchestral literature. This performance shows his signal characteristic of "pushing the envelope" of good taste in pursuit of a breath taking effect. You will not find another conductor who could pull off the extremes of tempo that he does in this example. If you sit back and just let this performance envelope you, I can pretty much guarantee that your reaction will be a gasping, "Holy Smoke!"
21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Stokowski is triumphal July 12 2007
By C. D. Simmons - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
First, a caveat, I am not an expert of any kind on classical music, nor am I a musician, so what follows is an intuitive response to a beatuiful performance, reincarnated by BMG.

I'm familar with the first movement and its haunting melody. I was not aware, until I read the booklet that came with the record of how highly regarded Stokowski was. His direction and the response of the musicians to it seems to me to be seamlessly knit together, making for a powerfully moving experience. It has been said that music reflects the harmonies of the universe, in this case I'd say the performance opens the beauty of the universal harmonies in a very effective way. I'm glad I like Sheherazade, Op. 35 for it introduced up to me to a great conductor I had not been aeare of in the great Stokowski and his innovative approach to a classic by Rimsky-Korsakov.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Stokowski - or Batiz? Surely not... April 29 2011
By Ralph Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Actually, yes. I am a great admirer of both Stokowski and Batiz and the latter has done some sterling work for Naxos, including one of my favourite recordings of Rachmaninov's "Isle of the Dead", so there is no reason at all why he should not be favourably compared with the Old Magician in the same piece.

My comparison was with Stokowski's fifth and final recording of this, Rimsky Korsakov's episodic and exotically scored oriental tone poem-come-symphony. Before I make any musical observations, I should simply say that if you want the particular coupling provided by either Naxos or RCA, the quality of both performances is such that you should either go with your preference or buy both, as the standard of playing is superb and the Naxos disc can be had for pennies on Marketplace. Stokowski's fizzy, volatile, super-charged reading of the rollicking "Russian Easter Overture" played by a virtuoso Chicago Symphony Orchestra makes and unusual and very welcome bonus - but the choice of programme on Naxos is equally attractive, being the rarely heard "Musical Pictures" suite gleaned from Rimsky's equally rarely performed fantasy opera "The Tale of the Tsar Saltan" (now usually remembered only for the "Flight of the Bumblebee"). Likewise, there is nothing much to choose between the sound quality offered by both discs: Naxos has the advantage of being digital and achieving an extraordinarily good and realistic balance, bringing out instruments that can sometimes be drowned out in so heavily orchestrated a piece without creating an artificial effect. I am particularly impressed by how well the Naxos engineers capture brass and timpani. However, the Stokowski recording was always in superb analogue sound, too and I doubt very much that you will be disappointed in it - in fact, I find it a tad brighter and more immediate with no discernible hiss. A little artificiality obtrudes with some more obvious manipulation of volume levels: for instance, the harp is preternaturally prominent, but I quibble.

Both solo violinists are excellent: Eric Gruenberg, reprising a role he took for Stokowski eleven years earlier in the LSO/Decca recording, being richly romantic and David Nolan for Batiz slightly cooler and more poised. I like both. Overall, it would be hard to separate the two interpretations; both are vivid, striking, extremely well played and really deliver thrills at the climactic points. Batiz shares Stokowski's famous drive and daring; the amazing this, of course, that Stokowski was six weeks short of his ninety-third birthday when he made this recording. I listened several times to both in succession and couldn't indeed decide or indeed hear a lot of difference - so who says I have to? Own both at very little cost and simply enjoy them.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Mesmerizing Music June 3 2013
By Mary Wilbur - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I bought this CD based upon reviews I read of it by others with far more critical knowledge of classical music and musicianship than myself. My reliance upon their opinion has not disappointed me. Listen to this first class recording of Leopold Stokowski conducting Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" and the "Russian Easter Overture" and be amazed and gratified.


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