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Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Scheherazade Op.35
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Le Rossignol [Song of the Nightingale]
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Reiner
Rec. Orchestra Hall, February 8th 1960 (Rimsky) and November 3rd 1956 (Stravinsky)


The RCA Living Era series has resurrected a classic Scheherazade on SACD, coupled with Stravinskyís Le Rossignol. Neither will offer many, if any, surprises by now though the new format offers its own frisson. Reiner was seventy-two when he took Scheherazade into Orchestra Hall to make this recording and had only two years more to live. The reading is sensuous and warm, lithe and enveloping but also perhaps somewhat idiosyncratic. Though some critics tend to tout this recording it doesnít really, in interpretative matters, quite measure up to, say, Beecham or Kletzki, to take two other classics from that period. There are too many disjunctive caesuri in the opening movement, too many metrical displacements that just call attention to themselves too boldly. Of course Frank Miller, section leading cellist supreme, is on hand in the second movement Ė his poignant diminuendi offer tutorship to any singer, let alone string players, and Ray Stillís oboe is here eloquence personified. But isnít there just too much dawdling from around 8.40 Ė added to which despite the revamped sound the climax isnít penetrating or jubilant enough. Some of the phrasing in the third movement borders on the mannered, though the percussion is very well caught and the finale erupts in fast-tonguing brass and acrobatic, balletic flute and wind playing. Throughout in fact the orchestral playing is at a very high level.†

This spills over in the Stravinsky, made four years earlier, and with the same complement of fine principals. I especially admired the flute playing in The Song of the Nightingale and the powerful rhythm Reiner evinces throughout, one of his most invincible qualities.

The booklet reprints in the main the original LP liner notes and the jewel case has an added surprise. You need to press slightly harder to open it; it has a kind of plastic clasp built in. This of course a SACD, to which I could only listen on an ordinary set up.

Jonathan Woolf


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