Lorin Maazel is noted for his ability to draw the finest playing from any ensemble he conducts, and his own experience as a string player gives him an additional advantage over many others in the field. What stands out here, apart from the beautifully engineered recording with its clarity and brilliance, is the stunning orchestral virtuosity. There are few performances on record as tonally rich as this one. Maazel pays particular attention to the articulation of string lines so that every note is given its proper measure, and he is also eminently successful in balancing all the sections of the orchestra. The drama of Scheherezade thus unfolds with an imposing inevitability.. It is, however, a very spacious reading of this grand work and the missing element is the sheer theatricality in the score. One can admire everything that Maazel does - nothing is vulgarised and there are few quirky mannerisms - but the heart doesn't always race in the way it should. Kondrashin and Beecham, for instance, inject greater sparks of electricity but neither is served as brilliantly by their engineers as is Maazel. The lush romanticism and brooding intensity of Rachmaninov's tone poem are rendered with the same care over orchestral detail, but once again one senses a degree of emotional detachment not present in finer interpretations, such as the one by Ashkenazy.
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