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CD Review

Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakoff

  • Capriccio espagñol, Op. 34
  • Overture "May Night"
  • Overture "The Tsar's Bride"
  • Overture on Russian Themes, Op. 28
  • Overture "The Maid of Pskov"
  • Dubinushka, Op. 62
  • Russian Easter Overture, Op. 36
Seattle Symphony Orchestra/Gerard Schwarz
Naxos 8.572788
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In the 26th and final season of Gerard Schwarz's generally successful Seattle tenure, Naxos gave fans of Russian orchestral music plenty to cheer about. Here, in excellent sound, is another entirely collectable disc of virtuoso bon-bons for orchestra. Bookended by two repertoire staples, the program features rarely heard gems from Rimsky-Korsakoff's always colorful output.

The Capriccio espagñol features some superlative playing, and some truly exceptional solo work. Schwarz is attuned to the work's many colors and moods, but longtime collectors know well that that's not enough. Rather, the Seattle Symphony displays an audible joy in making this music snap in a rhythmic sense, and the entire orchestra kicks into high gear at the end. Ditto for the Russian Easter Overture, a work that is rather like the 1812 Overture with less cannons and more tunes. It can be a major snore in concert when played badly, and seems endless at the worst. Thankfully, conductor and orchestra commit to a reading of great energy and general urgency. The result is one of the finer versions on disc, without question.

The other assorted works are given the same care and consideration as the major ones, with only May Night being especially known today. While you may not leave your home or car humming specific melodies, all of these minor pieces testify to the skill of a master orchestrator and colorist. This is a very appealing disc.

Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman