I ordered this SACD with some trepidation. The Mariinsky Theatre is NOT a good recording venue. In fact, it is an appalling venue! This recording of one of the greatest works of the romantic orchestral era is badly compromised by this theatre in which it is recorded.It incredible to think that a recording engineer of Andrew Cornall's professionalism could have actually sanctioned this disc's release. If you recall the recordings Melodiya was making in the 60's/70's ( overloaded and raucous) then that will give you some idea of what to expect if you buy this cd. It is hard to believe that a recording company can actually make a recording as bad as this, and why not add some artificial reverb. to make it even worse! As for the performance, Gergiev remains something of an enigmatic conductor. His Tchaikovsly 5 & 6 are wonderful, yet he can be an extremely wayward interpreter as well. Parts of this performance will be frustrating for those brought up on the recordings of Monteux, Beecham, Karajan, Haitink et al. The finale will, on first acquaintance, seem revelatory. Play it a second time, and you will realise that it is merely a virtuosos orchestra being put through its paces. I cannot honeslty recommend this sacd. Given the ridiculous prices recording companies are charging for these discs, I can only advise that this one is to be avoided at all costs. Get the (ordinary) cd of the Beecham, Haitink to find out what this music is all about. I would have included Reiner in the list, but he ruins his reading with a funereal third movement, otherwise it is a great performance.
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I was amazed by the previous reviewers comments considering Edward Greenfield (Gramophone 11/2002) gave such postive slant on the recording, as quoted below: "Recorded under live conditions but without an audience in St Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre, this Scheherazade is the most red-blooded, exciting account of Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestral warhorse that I know, helped by full, immediate sound of a richness rare in Russian recordings..." However, I have ordered the recording and will obviously form my own opinion on hearing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A (mostly) good performance with deplorable soundAug. 21 2010
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If I didn't know any more about music than I do, I would be scratching my head over the fact that reviews of this recording seem to either claim it's excellent and should be at the top of anybody's list, or it's not even worth the plastic the CD is made of. So why don't we just step back a moment and talk about some objective facts about this performance? Maybe then we can arrive at a little bit more clear-headed conclusion regarding this recording.
First, I am a professional clarinet player and have performed Scheherazade more than once. So I know this piece inside out (literally) from the center of the orchestra. I can assure you this is a very difficult piece for any orchestra to perform. So the fact that the Kirov orchestra does as well as they do, especially considering the lightning speeds that Gergiev adopts, is very impressive. There are a FEW moments here and there however, especially in the fourth movement, when their execution suffers because of those same lightning speeds. Double and triple articulation passages that should be in the forefront of the overall sound picture sometimes wind up being muddied, plus there's an occasional moment of less than precise ensemble. For the most part, however, their performance, if not world class, is very servicable.
Gergiev also presents a very "involved" interpretation. In other words, he involves himself quite a bit in what you are hearing. Whether or not that's a good or a bad thing just depends on how "hands-on" you like your recordings. He works very hard to spotlight every detail that he thinks is important so that the less-informed (in his mind) listener is sure to not miss anything. The question is whether or not anything important gets left in the dark by Gergiev's spotlight pointing elsewhere at a given moment.
The biggest problem with this recording, however, is the recorded sound. It reminds me of something I would have expected to hear in a 50's or a 60's recording (and not a very good one at that). There is a curious mixture of super-abundant ambience from the EXTREMELY resonant hall with close-up spotlit miking of individual players/sections. So we're essentially at the mercy of the sound engineer to decide what we need to hear and what's OK to get lost in the very-long reverb from the venue. Personally, I don't like somebody else making those decisions for me. I want to hear it all. It is possible to achieve that, especially with modern recording techniques/equipment.
This is all somewhat unpleasantly surprising, because I have Gergiev's Kirov Orchestra recording of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker as well, and felt that recording to be of exceptional quality, both in its performance as well as its sound. Based on that, my hope was that this album would be a similarly successful discovery. Sadly, it didn't quite measure up.
So, to sum it up, I would call this a decent, although not quite excellent performance, certainly not on the level of the world's greatest orchestras, that is marred by a very poor sound picture that prevents us from hearing the multitudinous details in Rimsky-Korsakov's miraculously detailed score.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Disagree: This Rimsky has color, lilt, touches of Slavic soulJuly 12 2008
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My recorded standards in this Romantic Era perennial?
Well, Sir Thomas Beecham with RPO on EMI in stereo still tops all, to my ears. Part of that success for me is the simply stunning virtuosity and musical magic of Beecham's RPO concertmaster of that era, taking the solo violin part. Few if any have done solo fiddling in this work better than Steven Staryk, originally from Canada. (You want more of Staryk's fiddling? Check out his solo work in Richard Strauss Heldenleben by Beecham and RPO, also stereo on EMI - I think just reissued again.)
Next, a number of others come into view,... or should I say, hearing.
One on the fav shelf is the remastered SACD version on BMG/RCA/now Sony from Reiner/Chicago in a retrospectively recognized gripping golden period of the band's history. Add the Philharmonia London led by Lovro von Matacic reissued on Testament. Add Stokowski, again with RPO and the later concertmaster Eric Gruenberg on BMG, coupled with the most amazing Russian Easter Overture ever taped, where Stokowski leads Chicago in a cherished moment of stellar guest conducting. Add Ricardo Muti leading the revitalized Philadelphia Orchestra with concertmaster Normal Carol. Add L'orchestre du Suisse Romande under their music director Ernst Ansermet with Lorand Fenyves fiddling, now 24-bit remastered on Decca/London legends series. Add the young Seiji Ozawa with Chicago again, Victor Aitay fiddling on EMI. Add the London Philharmonic under Jose Serebrier on Reference Recordings - do you have your HDCD decoder yet? - with Joakim Svenheden fiddling. A DVD-audio disc with Jerzy Semkow leading St. Louis, Max Rabinowitsj soloing. (Coupled with Prokofiev Nevsky cantata going full tilt with mezzo Claudine Carlson and chorus.) Add EMIs disc of London Symphony, John Georgiadis fiddling under Yevgeny Svetlanov. Don't omit, a Naxos bargain, David Nolan fiddling, and Enrique Batiz leading Phlharmonia London. Recall a sensuous and beautiful outing with Montreal under Dutoit with Richard Roberts fiddling. Jaap van Zweden soloing with Amsterdam's Concertgebouw Orchestra under Ricardo Chailly, back before van Z became a rising Netherlands star conductor.
This fav shelf comparison list is long, isn't it? Wrap up by adding Jos van Immerseel leading Anima Eterna on gut strings with Mayumi Seiler fiddling on Zig Zag Territoires.
So we have no lack, no lack at all of meritorious readings to contextualize our listening to Gergiev and Kirov with Sergei Levitin fiddling. Some negative reviews have already been posted, yet I find myself disagreeing. Why?
Firstly, the surround sound is vivid and suitable for this particular work. No, the Mariinsky Theater of Saint Petersburg is not a drier, more analytical venue - and yes, the room reflections which gather and bloom the sound are perhaps more marked than in drier acoustics. But if any music can take a fuller, more resonant venue - provided acoustic blossom does not obscure detail and tonal weight - then surely Scheherazade is a contender. Thanks to multiple channels, then, as my system reads it out on this disc, the super audio edition manages a workable, vivid balance of resonance, detail, and tonal heft. Nobody eclipses anybody else in the band's departments, and my ears do not tell me the whole is diminished by resonance at all.
My worst comparison in this regard has to be the horrible Watford Colosseum recording of Brahms First Symphony, conducted by the interesting Marin Alsop on Naxos super audio - where indeed resonance and swirling circular reflections undid what sounded in passing like a serious interpretation by a notable woman conductor. Compared to that grand sonic failure, this surround sound disc is no failure.
As an interpretation, I do not hear that Gergiev and Kirov and Sergei Levitin are as lacking as other negative reviewers suggest. I hear drama and color and breathing room for the composer's famous melodies, all aplenty. The woodwinds and the strings are sensuous, no doubt. The failures I sometimes find I am hearing under Gergiev - mainly relentless drive and push, all rushing and forcing the musical momentum ahead whether it wants to speed forward or not- do not marr nor mark the performance here. Gergiev's Tchaikovsky symphonies in Vienna, to me, are way too superficially played - and I am ever a fan of Vienna - so here I am pleased to find Gergiev letting the Kirov departments of the orchestra breathe and dance quite a bit more than he may do in other outings with other composers.
When Gergiev lets the band breathe, I do hear charming and sensuous inflections played across all the band groups. And, though Gergiev doesn't taffy-pull, I also hear touches of that special Russian-Slavic soulfulness and folky songfulness which we have long associated with the Russian composers of the Romantic Era in all their nationalistic, glorious rediscovery and renewal.
Will I let Gergiev displace any of the other fav shelf keepers? No, not by a long shot. And it would take an amazing disc in any case, to ever displace the RPO under Beecham with Staryk on EMI. But I cannot agree that Gergiev in super audio surround sound is quite the loser other reviewers make it out to be. So yes, this disc goes to the fav shelf, too.
Nice bonuses are the Borodin Steppes, and the infrequently heard Lyapunov orchestration of Balakirev's virtuous piano work, Islamey. If you are looking for a first Scheherazade, go bargain and get Batiz with Philharmonia London on Naxos. If you want the top of the top of the top, go RPO and Staryk under Beecham. If you just want a solid good one, you can pick from any number of star bands under star conductors - none of whom is particularly awful, no matter what I personally hear and think. Gergeiv, Kirov, Levitin - recommended, for sound, and for performance.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
If I could give it Zero Stars, I would...Nov. 17 2004
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I'm embarrassed for Gergiev for releasing this album. His interpretation of Scheherazade is SO BAD. It's not playful. It's not lyrical. It's not controlled. It's not beautiful. It IS horrible. Avoid this like the plague.
This music is so easy and accessible, but in Gergiev's hands, it's boring and awful. It's the worst version of Scheherazade I've ever heard - not even close to Muti, Svetlanov (my favorite), Temirkanov, Maazel, Karajan, Ormandy, etc.
The SACD sound doesn't help either. It sounds like it was recorded in a swimming pool.
Don't buy this recording.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Listen With Fresh Ears-This Music is Alive.Jan. 24 2010
Mark W. Narins
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Whenever I listen to a new recording of a piece I love especially if I have a treasured recording of it I must listen to that new recording 3 or 4 times just to hear what is actually there and not immediately make comparisons with my favorite rendition. And so it was with this wonderful recording of Scheherezade Sheherazade. As I listened to it the architecture of Gergiev's plan came through. All the precision and color are there and then some. Many recordings have this. What I was most impressed by was the interior vividness of this recording. It's hard to describe except as I listened I would notice a slight elongation of this phrase, a slight addition of vibrato in another phrase, a small detail that I had never heard before-dozens of moments like these which added up to a cohesive connection to a dynamic inner life I never realized this piece had. Gergiev really is committed to telling this story from the inside out, he thoroughly believes the story and this conviction informs everything he does. If you watch him conduct Scheherezade (which you can online) you see the music inhabit his body in a way that is very, very rare and which evokes a sound and intensity that take you over. Added to this it's obvious that the orchestra has thoroughly lived with this music. They are able to play the rapid section cleaner and more precise and in control than I have ever heard. The violin soloist's was wonderful and his playing also evokes the deep inner life in the piece. The same is true with "In the Steppes of Central Asia". From the very first harmonics in the violins, you know you are in a different realm. It's not just that they are played clearly, there is something beyond which underlies the sound and I would say this characterizes this entire disc. It's a CD you can listen to over and over and be drawn further into the music.
Nice cover art -- that's itMarch 23 2015
T. A. Ernst
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a bizarre performance and a horrible recording. If you believe The Penguin Guide is infallible, buy it. Otherwise, avoid. There is NOTHING attractive about the sound of this SACD. It is possibly the worst I have ever heard, among hundreds. I find little of value in the performance. There are far too many classic performances with gorgeous sound available (Reiner/CSO on Living Stereo) at decent prices (I've owned many, heard even more) to bother with this overpriced, overdriven, hyper blast.
I seldom do this: those who claim to like this will probably someday regret their having once offered a favorable impression. I can't imagine anyone playing this more than five times and still liking it.
However, it does have an attractively colorful cover.