This is an unsurprising coupling of two of the most popular works in the
orchestral literature. Their impact as display pieces is often stressed as
if this quality militates against or cancels out their musical value. In
fact the two qualities are perfectly complementary.
What is so attractive about these two works is the excellence and memorability
of the musical ideas and the sense of fantasy which imbues every bar. Would
that Serebrier would now turn to the similarly ecstatic and exotic (though
even finer) Antar another 'Symphonic Suite' although finally dubbed
'Symphony No. 2'.
Jose Serebrier knows the LPO well having conducted them in his own meticulously
prepared recoridng of Charles Ives's Symphony No. 4 back in the 1970s for
RCA (now BMG). His own extensive notes recount his mission to cleanse the
orchestral parts of Scheherazade from decades of conductors' accretions and
elisions. He also gives his own overview of conductors' styles taking in
names such as Reiner, Monteux, Ormandy, Ansermet, Bernstein, Beecham and
a conductor with whom Serebrier worked as assistant in old age, Stokowski.
As a showcase Scheherazade is well served by RR's technical know-how
and accomplishment although frankly the listener very soon loses all
preoccupation with such matters as the music speaks freely and with lively
command. The Colosseum seems a reverberant acoustic and must have taken some
mastering. As it is bloom and space are not lacking yet detail is nicely
preserved and communicated to the listener. The big moments are spectacularly
caught as in the quick crescendo at the end of The Young Prince and the
Princess. The helter-skelter piccolo solo at 6.53 in the Bronze Warrior
finale is staggering; but then much of the playing here is possessed.
The mixture of early Christian mysticism and pagan debauch that stalk the
Russian Easter Festival Overture are conveyed with similar fervour.
For all of Serebrier's concern for authenticity the performances have no
trace of pedantry. Instead they flow with life and dramatic poetry.
Film music fans who may not otherwise know the work would do well to hear
this disc for Scheherazade in particular is a work much quarried for
inspiration when deadlines press and bank accounts gasp.
All in all a refreshing and surprising event for those who thought they knew