RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Sheherazade, Op. 35 – Toronto Sym./ Peter Oundjian – Chandos multichannel SACD CHSA 5145, 45:20 [8/26/14] (Distr. by Naxos) ****:
There are so many recordings of Rimsky-Korsakov’s ever-popular symphonic suite Sheherazade one might wonder, why another?
First, it’s very popular music. Second, to my reckoning this is one of only a handful of SACD recordings, and unlike the popular RCA archival disc with Reiner this one is surround. This is a fine recording, with the Toronto Symphony and conductor Peter Oundjian, who is now celebrating his 10th year with the orchestra.
This performance starts in a stately manner, taken a bit more slowly than the other recordings I have listened to since my youth. It’s well and good, and a fine interpretation and tempo setting. The fourth movement is taken quite fast, and is filled with energy from a very exuberant orchestra. Without having instant reference to all the other performances of this work I’ve heard, I have to say that this ranks very high on my list in terms of musicianship and interpretation.
The recording is first rate. It’s in 5.0 surround, with the instruments up front and the sounds of the Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto in the surrounds. The acoustics are realistic, without undue spotlighting of instruments. Nothing sounds out of scale, and the wonderful violin solo with Jonathan Crow is well played and well captured. The Chandos team has done an excellent job with a challenging piece in terms of dynamics and frequency extension.
The one curious thing about the recording is that we get Sheherazade and nothing else. There’s 44 minutes of music here, what we would expect on an old LP. SACDs, even with their stereo CD layer can hold 80+ minutes, so I was expecting another Rimsky-Korsakov piece or two. That’s my only real complaint with this disc. I very much like the performance and the sound. I just think Chandos has been a little stingy with the music.