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6 Reviews
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant (x3)
This is a work I have known and loved for very many years. One of my first LPs was conducted by Kletzki, and I have heard many other recordings over the years; but this one surpasses them all, even Reiner and Beecham. Though tempi may be a little unusual in places - the beginning of the third section 'The Young Prince and the Princess' could be seen as on the slow side...
Published on 10 Mar 2007 by Battle-famous

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings for this Sheherazade
Having been an admirer of Gergiev's fresh and exciting Tchaikovsky Nutcracker, I found myself rather shortcharged after hearing this studio version of Sheherazade. Despite the lavish praise that was heaped upon this version by the Penguin Guide, I found that it tended to suffer from Gergiev's mannered approach and lack of adreanaline and passion in the orchestral playing...
Published on 17 Jun 2007 by Yi-Peng


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant (x3), 10 Mar 2007
By 
Battle-famous (Warwickshire, England) - See all my reviews
This is a work I have known and loved for very many years. One of my first LPs was conducted by Kletzki, and I have heard many other recordings over the years; but this one surpasses them all, even Reiner and Beecham. Though tempi may be a little unusual in places - the beginning of the third section 'The Young Prince and the Princess' could be seen as on the slow side - but taken in context, the whole thing hangs together so beautifully that these things seem entirely logical. Fast passages are indeed fast, but never breathless. The Kirov players are simply superb, and Gergiev consistently shows himself to be perfectly attuned to this beautiful work.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings for this Sheherazade, 17 Jun 2007
By 
Yi-Peng (Singapore) - See all my reviews
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Having been an admirer of Gergiev's fresh and exciting Tchaikovsky Nutcracker, I found myself rather shortcharged after hearing this studio version of Sheherazade. Despite the lavish praise that was heaped upon this version by the Penguin Guide, I found that it tended to suffer from Gergiev's mannered approach and lack of adreanaline and passion in the orchestral playing. Gergiev's performance also suffers from a cloudy and close-miked recording where one may not be able to hear the felicities and nuances of the orchestral playing because of the artificial reverb that counters the dryness of the acoustics. Nevertheless, Gergiev ably builds up climaxes slowly but steadily and keeps the architecture of Rimsky's sweltering music in shape.

Gergiev's performance begins with a lethargic rendition of the Sultan's theme, made to sound like a toothless tiger, and lacking in the menace and brutality it needs to convey its bloodthirsty nature. This is answered by Sergei Levithin's equally lethargic portrayal of Sheherazade, where her theme lacks the sinuous nature needed for her to be a seductive storyteller to the Sultan. The ensuing rendition of the first movement starts out slowly but steadily, but even so Gergiev swells the music and allows the performance to warm up so that his orchestra is effective in portraying the surging power of the sea. The Kalendar Prince movement fares slightly better, and I think that the orchestra plays more confidently here, especially in the march-like transformation of the sinister fanfare. The only demerit in this movement is that when the trombones first introduce this fanfare it sounds like a toothles tiger and is unable to alarm the listener. The slow third movement should at least - and more fortunately - be considered a high point of the performance. Despite a slow beginning, Gergiev allows his players to shine and allows this movement to sound radiant, making for a seductive clarinet portrayal of the Young Princess and a jaunty-sounding rendition of her central theme. Gergiev's rendition of this movement is also noteworthy for the detail in the orchestral playing and for its ecstatic-sounding coda. Then, in the lively Festival at Baghdad finale, Gergiev adopts the most breakneck speed I have ever heard for this part of the work, with the Kirov Orchestra playing it until it tingles with adreanaline. At times it sounds rushed and in need of a little precision and slickness, but its only problem is that the weightless Shipwreck section makes it somewhat anticlimactic after all the excitement during the Festival. Nevertheless, Gergiev ends the work serenely and peacefuly.

The two short fill-ups benefit more in this recording, because they are given less mannered perofrmances. Nevertheless, they provide interesting couplings to Sheherazade by allowing the listener to get a taste of the Russianised Orientalism that existed before Sheherazade was written.

Overall, I wouldn't say this is an outstanding recording of Sheherazade because of its checkered effect, but at least it can't be as abominable as it is perceived to be. True, it can't top the Mercury Living Presence version with Dorati and the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra or even other recordings by Chung and Reiner, but at least it has some worthy merits that allow it to stand on its own.

Shortly after I wrote this review I would like to mention that I've heard Gergiev conduct Sheherazade in live performances on the Internet. The BBC Proms featured Gergiev conducting the World Orchestra for Peace, and I've also had the chance to see Gergiev's 2005 Salzburg Festival performance with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra on YouTube. Gergiev just seems more in control of the music on these occasions, and he better shapes the music, moving it forward and building up tensions. So I would like to say that I think that Gergiev seemed to do better in his subsequent live performances of Sheherazade than on this disc. This 2001 performance doesn't exactly do Gergiev justice when he conducts the work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nice performance, shame about the recording, 31 Oct 2013
By 
Dr. N. A. Allen "dr nick" (Winchester, Hants United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I have found the Penguin Guide reviews to be extremely helpful in the past but their glowing recommendation of this recording seems to be totally inexplicable. Although the performance may be very exciting albeit a bit frenetic, too much of the exotic orchestral detail for which Rimsky-Korsakov was so renowned is lost in a mush of reverberation. The transients in particular are blunted, resulting in the brass lacking bite and much of the percussion heard as if through a blanket. When there are so many fine performances with far superior sound available, there seems to be little point in purchasing this version. Even the Reiner and Monteux analogue versions,recorded nearly 60 years ago, or the Mackerras digital version for instance, manage to capture the clarity as well as the weight needed to realise the fabulous orchestration which, to my mind, contributes so much to the greatness of this popular piece. If you want to experience this music as it is heard in the concert hall I would suggest that you explore the many other recordings before considering this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lush and colourful recording of a great piece, 18 May 2011
In contrast, to a couple of reviewers here, I actually really like the use of more 'popular' recording techniques on this recording such as close-miking and artificial reverbation. I've always thought that classical music might benefit from some more recordings like this as I find sometimes the orchestra sounds like a mash of sound without much definition. But that's just me and some will say that orchestral music should be listened to more as ensemble music rather than a collection of individual sounds.

As for the piece itself, it's wonderful and exotic sounding. It more than lives up to that romantic vision of the East that resides in the hearts of many Westerners. The first and third movements are particularly lovely and the orchestra and conductor sound in fine form. The additional pieces on the CD are worthy additions, particularly 'In the Steppes of Central Asia' by Borodin. I think that the use of lots of reverb enhances the evocative effect of the music. The subtly unrealistic sound makes me feel like the piece is occurring in my imagination rather than in a concert hall. This I like.

I haven't heard any other recordings of the 'Scheherazade' but have never felt the need to after buying this version. It pushes all the right buttons for me.
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37 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A modern-styled Sheherazade, 22 Jan 2003
Having heard the Kirov Orchestra play Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade several times live, during performances of the famous ballet version by Mikhail Fokine, I was quite surprised when I first listened to this CD. True, on most of these occasions the orchestra wasn't conducted by Valery Gergiev and although there is no doubt that the Kirov musicians have this music very much in their blood, this new recording won't go down as their greatest achievement.
With his unleashed, unpredictable tempi and heavy, unsubtle accents, and not helped by too much artificial reverberation obscuring instrumental detail, Valery Gergiev, whom we have heard more inspired than here, opts for an extremely rough, no-nonsense re-telling of Rimsky's ever-popular score. He seems to deny his Sheherazade every ounce of charm, poetry and sensuality, portraying a woman more likely to have spent some time in a brutal Chechnian camp than one who wallowed in the refined colours and perfumes of the Bagdad fantasized by Rimsky-Korsakov. Moreover, Gergiev doesn't avoid the pitfall of highlighting too many details of the orchestration - and true, at times he reveals unheard passages, as in the third movement - at the cost of losing grip of the overall structure. The frenzied tempo in which he attacks the last movement not only puts his orchestra in trouble, it also makes him miss the big final climax.
The orchestra's solos, the first violin from concert master Sergei Levitin to begin with, are undoubtedly commendable, but in this recording they definitely do not sound as the most sophisticated around. As is obvious from older recordings, the Kirov woodwinds surely have a lot more in store.
The short fillings from Borodin and Balakirev are much in the same vein.
In short, a modern-styled Sheherazade and it all depends of how you want your harem favourite to appear, but other conductors (among others Kirill Kondrashin, still unequalled for the dramatic sweep, Fritz Reiner for the sophistication of the orchestration) have given more complete and fascinating images of this wonderful work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Worth buying, 21 Feb 2013
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This was to replace an old worn out tape, that had been played over and over again. Just wonderful music.
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Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade by St Petersburg and Valery Gergiev Kirov Orchestra
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