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Sheherazade: Berlin PO/Karajan
Capriccio Espagnol Berlin PO/Maazel
Flight of the Bumblebee Philharmonia/Ashkenazy
Russian Easter Festival Overture Concertgebouw/Markevitch
Tsar Saltan suite Philharmonia/Ashkenazy
Symphony No 2 Antar Gothenburg SO/Jarvi
Golden Cockerel suite Concerts Lamoureux/Markevitch
DG PANORAMA 469 187-2 2CDs CD1 [77.05] CD2 [78.26]


The Panorama series competes in price-range directly with Naxos and Arte Nova. The series of Twofers come in at £9.00 each - shaving 50p off the Naxos catalogue price. The DG and Philips catalogues are the lode from which this series is mined. Big names and recordings best known once at full price provide serious competition. Karajan's Sheherazade is not perhaps the most charming of versions but it lacks nothing in power and Michel Schwalbe's seductress violin draws us into the fantasy. 1967 technology is still perfectly acceptable. Maazel is excellent in the pert and folksy Capriccio and is well rendered in sound now forty years of age. Neither the Capriccio nor the Sheherazade supplant my reference versions: Ormandy in Capriccio and Kondrashin (BMG) and Serebrier (Reference Recordings) not to mention Beecham and Stokowski in Sheherazade. The flighty bumblebee (Ashkenazy/Philharmonia) is suitably aerobatic and Markevitch (1967, Concertgebouw) excels in the more than usually reverent Russian Easter Festival Overture. Ashkenazy's Tsar Saltan suite is an explosion of vibrant colour, toybox marches and rich oriental fantasy with some Borodin hallmarks amid the melodies. One can see what a small step it was from here to Prokofiev's Three Oranges. Järvi's 1988 Antar is more a second Sheherazade than a second symphony and the music is vintage Rimsky and deserves close attention. I am extremely enthusiastic about Antar. There are some fine versions in the catalogue - Kondrashin (BMG) and Abravanel being notable examples. The Järvi outpoints both in subtlety of sound if not in power. The Kondrashin is one of the great interpretations to be counted alongside Svetlanov's The Seasons. I have not heard Järvi's Chandos Bergen version. Still this Järvi goes with irresistible lilt (6.02 first movement) and celebratory abandon (00.40 allegro risoluto). Markevich's Lamoureux Golden Cockerel is aptly mysterious and evocative of fairytale - joy moderately diluted by a hint of stridency in the 1959 sound.

An extremely good, reasonably well documented and very generous collection. Those interested should not hesitate. This is also a way of acquiring some golden age versions not otherwise on offer.

Rob Barnett

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