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Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherezade; Tchaikovsky / Karajan CD, Import
- アーティスト: ベルリン・フィルハーモニー管弦楽団 & ヘルベルト・フォン・カラヤン
Whenever Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra came to London in the 1950s and 1960s, the queue for tickets on the first day of booking would coil round the Royal Festival Hall not once but twice. Listening to this CD version of a famous 1967 Polydor recording of the great man at work, one can understand the attraction. The disc includes three Russian works; Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade with Michel Schwalbe's solo violin playing like a hypnotist's fob-watch; Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien with stunning brasses; and the 1812 Overture where even the terrifying cannons sound musical. The very disc itself seems to have a sense of occasion. Karajan makes what is very much a performance recorded rather than a recording performed. It is as if Sheherzade herself were wielding the baton and spellbinding the Sultan night after night. No orchestra and conductor weave this sort of magic today. Only the hasty marketing lets the side down as it cannot even be bothered to unify the spelling on the sleeve. Which is it to be, DG? Sche or She? --Rick Jones
Well, they certainly did in the Scheherazade. This is a work overflowing with a wealth of melodies combined with gripping drama. Karajan and the Berliners seem right at home in such a world. Karajan is gloriously intense, seeing all of the many mood changes, delivering them with finesse, while preventing things from getting out of hand (one of his greatest gifts as a conductor). Everyone wants to be kept awake during this work, and Karajan does the job. Clarity reigns even in the most climatic of moments, the buildup to the sinking of the ship in particular. Karajan has a wonderful eye for detail and even though this disc is from the 60's, you can pick up on wonderful contrasts that are present throughout. And I shouldn't forget to mention the win of the performance--the 3rd movement. Here the Berlin strings take us out of this world with the power of their beauty and elegance. I didn't know such a thing was possible in this work, but it appears that it is. Despite this recording's age, it is just as indispensible now as it was when it first appeared on LP.
After hearing the Scheherazade, the Tchaikovsky sounds unsatisfying in comparison. Karajan is still intense, to be sure, but I don't hear him pulling out as many thrilling moments. Sometimes the music can border on sounding dull, and that is not what I want in my Tchaikovsky. It's strange, because Karajan has worked wonders with Tchaikovsky elsewhere. Perhaps he, like me, considers these works, particularly the 1812, to be overhyped and doesn't have much interest in the music. The average listener won't notice these setbacks, because things are still interesting to a degree, but experienced listeners will probably complain. In order for these works to really make an impression, solemnity will be out the window. But that is exactly what Karajan tries to incorporate, which keeps things from really coming to life. It wouldn't have hurt to throw more fun into the picture. At least that's how I feel.
To summarize, the Scheherazade is given a stunning performance that demands a listen, while the Tchaikovsky asks for more. But given the quality of the former work, you've got to own this disc. The recording quality is very good considering that it's from 1967. Buy this CD as if though you were only getting the Scheherazade, and there's no way you'll be disappointed.
If you do decide to buy, I suggest listening to the reissue and comparing to other more modern recordings, e.g. Gergiev. Or, buy it for the string section performance. 4* for overall performance (bias + for string section) , 3* for sound quality (same as vinyl, but not as warm).