RIMSKY-KORSAKOV:  Scheherazade, Op. 35.  TCHAIKOVSKY:  Ouverture solennelle 1812, Op. 49
Vienna State Opera Orch/Hermann Scherchen, cond.

WESTMINSTER 471 215 (M) (ADD) TT:  62:31

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV:  Scheherazade, Op. 35.  Russian Easter Overture
Atlanta Symphony Orch/Robert Spano, cond.

TELARC 80568 (F) (DDD) TT:  60:02

Robert Spano, newly appointed as Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, here makes his recording debut with the orchestra. Choice of repertory is rather strange:  why another Telarc Scheherazade when the label already boasts one of the finest of all extant recordings of the work?  This is with Sir Charles Mackerras and the London Symphony recorded more than a decade ago in Walthamstow Hall (Telarc 80208). The new performance is surely well-played but has nothing special to offer, with a particularly subdued shipwreck in the final movement. Mackerras offers Capriccio espagnole as a filler, Spano gives us Russian Easter Overture  If you are interested in that coupling surely the recommended version is the RCA/BMG with Temirkanov and the New York Philharmonic.  Now there's a shipwreck, for sure!  The recording might not have the super clarity of Telarc's DSD (Direct Stream Digital) technology, but the sound is perfectly satisfactory. Doubtless the fact that the Telarc recording was made in discrete, multi-channel sound and soon will be issued on SACD is the primary reason for this recording.

It's great news that Deutsche Grammophon is releasing some of the earlier Westminster recordings—could we dare hope for the Scherchen Ilya Mourometz?. (Note: this now is available on a rivate reissue). These are historic recordings of great interest for collectors in the early days of stereo. Label identification is  Westminster -- The Legacy."   DG  is mentioned insignificantly in the credits, along with Universal Classics.  A brief history of the Westminster label written by Michael H. Gray is valuable, and transfers are of the highest quality. These are pioneering stereo recordings (1957), outstanding sonically for their time—and they still sound good, although high percussion is almost too brilliant, low bass is rather lacking.  This is an impetuous performance of Scheherazade, interpreted with vivid imagination not to be heard in the Spano recording.  The closing of the third movement, "The Young Prince and the Young Princess," is almost as rhapsodic as Evgeny Svetlanov's USSR Symphony Orchestra performance from 1969 originally released on Russian Disk (SUCD 10-00180) later in a BMG/Melodiya Twofer which also contained the three symphonies (40065), the latter set still available.  Scherchen's 1812 is dynamic and powerful—quite superior as a performance to the recent Kunzel/Cincinnati "Pops" effort.  No cannon, but lots of bells.  It's not the stereo demonstration to be heard in some later versions (including Dorati's London and Minneapolis recordings and Morton Gould on RCA) but if it's the music you're interested in hearing, you won't find it presented better.  Highly recommended and I look forward to future issues in the series.

R.E.B. (Aug. 2001)