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Nicolai Andreyevich RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844 - 1908)
Capriccio Espagnol, Op 34 (1887) [15.00]
Piano Concerto in c#, Op 30 (1883) [14.06]
The Tale of the Tsar Sultan, Op 57: Suite (1900) [19.49]
Sadko, Musical Picture, Op 5 (1869) [12.20]
Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op 36 (1888) [14.10]
Noriko Ogawa (Steinway D piano)
Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra/Kees Bakels
Tan Eng, piano technician.
Notes in English, Deutsch, Français. Photos of artists.
Recorded in Petronas Hall, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, November 2003
BIS-CD-1387 [76.42]

Comparison Recordings:
Opp 34, 36: Antal Dorati, LSO. Mercury Living Presence [ADD] SACD
Opp 5, 57: Neeme Järvi, SNO Chandos CHAN 8327/29
Op 30: Artur Rodzinski, Paul Badura-Skoda, RPO, Westminster LP XWN
Op 30: Dmitri Kitajenko, Geoffrey Tozer, Bergen PO Chandos CHAN 9229

For a long time Rimsky-Korsakov was one of those composers who was at once overplayed and ignored. A few of his pieces were played to death, but as a composer — as a musical personality — he was all but unknown. The German/Italian stranglehold on the opera stage prevented Russian opera from ever appearing except when drastically cut, poorly staged and sung in translation. As a relic of those dead days, I actually have a Boris Godunov libretto in Italian and English! It was the only one available! But in these enlightened times most of Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas are available in good quality recordings and many in videos. His chamber music, his church music, and miracle of miracles, even his early symphonies, are being heard often. I knew a record store manager who lamented that Rimsky-Korsakov didn’t entitle Scheharazade his Symphony #4 (which it most certainly is) because had he done so then the other three would sell better. Why this curious reluctance of Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninov and Szymanowski to put a number on their respective fourth (and last) symphonies? Is it really just a coincidence? Or some Eastern superstition that has never made it to the West?

The Tale of the Tsar Sultan Suite naturally contains the ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee.’ The Järvi version of this Suite is not displaced by this new two channel version. This particular Sadko is not musically related to the later opera of the same name and hence does not contain the ‘Song of India.’

This is a gorgeous recording, highly recommended. The commitment of the performers is just overwhelming, and the recording engineers are right on the job, too. These artists have a slight edge in drama and dynamics even over the excellent Chandos recording of the Piano Concerto and could convince me that this is great music. Kees Bakels is a superb conductor for this richly dramatic music; his orchestra play perfectly for him. With the Overture and Capriccio, the Dorati SACD still has a slight edge, but if and when this disk comes out on a digital surround sound SACD it is likely to blow all of the competition right out of the water with one shot.

Paul Shoemaker

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