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Reviews: Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade, Borodin, Balakirev - Gergiev

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Reviews: 8

Review by peteyspambucket July 21, 2003 (9 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I'm embarrassed for Gergiev for releasing this album. His interpretation of Scheherazade is SO BAD. It's not playful. It's not lyrical. It's not controlled. It's not beautiful. It IS horrible. Avoid this like the plague. This music is so easy and accessible, but in Gergiev's hands, it's boring. It's the worst version of Scheherazade I've ever heard - not even close to Muti, Svetlanov (my favorite), Temirkanov, Maazel, Karajan, Ormandy, etc.

The SACD sound doesn't help either. It sounds like it is trapped in a swimming pool.

Don't buy this SACD.

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Review by cs July 28, 2003 (3 of 8 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I simply had to disagree with the prior negative review. In fact, I so disagree that I became a user of this forum simply to post my disagreement. Scheherazade is a classic "warhorse" that has had literally dozens of interpretations in the past few decades. I do not know who the favorite performance of the prior reviewer is, but mine is Reiner's with the Chicago Symphony in the 50s. If you like a muscular performance with excellent sonics, then Gergiev is right up at the top. I have at least five or six recordings of it myself, and I believe this is my second favorite to Reiner's. Try it, you will most likely like it.

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Review by madisonears October 7, 2003 (16 of 18 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Good controversy going here, which is what forums like this are all about.

I am a tireless proponent of SACD and I have invested in about 80 or so. This is one of the very few that I had to get rid of. I can't believe professional musicians and recording executives would allow this junk to be put on the market. I listened once and I wasn't sure it was as bad as I thought, so I listened again a few days later (mood has a lot to do with our interpretation of musical information). It was WORSE. Worst performance, among the dozen or so I've heard and liked over many years, with a grotesque and boring interpretation. Worst sound of almost any modern recording I can think of, with no air, no life, no presence, weird sonic attributes.

This disc will be the punchline of a joke someday, but right now it is merely an insult to the art of music performance and recording.

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Review by tailspn December 7, 2003 (6 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
What I like about being musically ignorant is that I think all classical performances that make it to a major label are great. If I were highly classical musically educated, or a conductor/record producer, or a person who thought they knew something about music, then I would be missing so many opportunities to experience the emotional gift that is inherent in such works. And I believe this is one of them. Now I may be musically ignorant, it either moves me or it doesnít, but Iím not ignorant about the recording process. Iíve witnessed the Boston Symphony, and the Pops recorded by DGG, Philips, Sony and others numerous times. The collaborative interpretive effort and agony between the producer, conductor, and selected musicians, let alone all the engineers, has to be seen to be appreciated. They hardly produce ďjunkĒ, although their interpretation may not be universally appreciated.

But this SACD, and maybe the CD, has a problem, and I can only guess at its cause. Itís pretty closely mic'ed, and has abundant high frequency energy. The problem, I believe, is in the mastering. Itís at least 8dB hotter than most SACDís, and 5dB hotter than the usual Universal. This makes it a really difficult CD/SACD for most playback systems, and not a wise move on Universals part to release as mastered. Depending on the particular SACD player used, and the downstream preamp and amps, this thing may sound horrendous, pushing the amps into non-linear operation by the excessive HF energy from the DAC's production of spurious products. A great system test record, but not what Universal, or we I think, were looking for.

Myself, I love the thing. Scheherazade is a favorite of mine, and this is the only MC version available. If you can hear it without distortions, in multichannel, it is spacious, realistic, and to me, very moving.

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Review by thepilot September 5, 2004 (9 of 14 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
The performance is truly as good as Reiner's and Sir Thomas Beecham's classic versions, not to forget Sir Charles Mackerras' equally astounding rendition for Telarc. The sound could have been better (too many microphones and some PCM harshness), but it is good to have such an astounding Scheherazade in multichannel DSD sound. Those who disagree propably have systems that cannot accomodate the wide dymanic range of the disc, the higher than average level and the elevated treble energy.

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Review by mwagner1962 February 6, 2005 (5 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:

I have been a long time fan of Phillips, and I bought this SACD having high hopes after Gergiev's stunning Shostakovich 7th with Kirov/Rotterdam. However, I was disappointed by the mediocre and too closely miked sound. The tempos are way too fast (though 5 stars to the brass players for their incredibly fast multiple tonguing in the final movement)and I must also add that the fast pacing of all of the Scheherazade movements gives me a strong feeling of "let's get this over with ASAP"!!!

This particular SACD makes me wonder about buying anymore future Gergiev/Kirov SACDs, because I also despise the barn-like echo of the Mariinsky Theater (despite the close miking). I will stick with my Reiner/CSO SACD for the now, and the Gergiev may very will be going to the used bin in one of the local stores. :( And, my trusty old Dutoit/Montreal (redbook) recording of Scheherazade will also stay in my CD library for a long time!!!

I can only hope that the Gergiev/Vienna SACDs are better???

Mark in Austin

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Review by 2-channel February 11, 2006 (11 of 18 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Incredibly (and perhaps, worryingly) this disc gets a Rosette and an almost unequivocal thumbs-up from the 'Penguin Guide'. It also gives a strong clue as to why it so instantly dislikeable. Artificial reverb. Not a dash here and there, the disc is AWASH with artificial reverb of the most intrusive kind - giving it an overbright, ruinous, glassy sheen. Comrades, real-life reverb doesn't work like that.

One can only assume that the professional reviewers have some rose-tinted ears, of which I would dearly like a pair.

The performance, from my much less well-educated musical perspective, is too exciting and red-blooded by half - the faster passages blurring in the overpaced tempi.

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Review by sacdman January 10, 2010 (7 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I have to agree with the previous reviewers -- simply put, this is a ghastly recording. Very bright and up close sound,
and no ambience whatever. The liner notes list some Russian recording engineers, not the usual Polyhymnia who do
Philips CD recordings. The recording is also a PCM-sourced one, and the glare from the brass and strings is pretty
hard to overlook. The recording was made in a studio, and sounds like it.

The interpretation is also leaden and stodgy. I'm surprised by this -- this conductor is noted for his interpretations. I heard
him live in a performance of Puccini's Turandot in London in Covent Garden, which was divine. But, here he clearly had a
bad day (his photo in the liner notes shows him scowling at the camera).

Sad that the usually reliable Penguin Guide chose to honor this disc with a rosette!

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