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Track(s) taken from CKD293

Scheherazade, Op 35

1888; piano duet reduction by Rimsky-Korsakov

Artur Pizarro (piano), Vita Panomariovaite (piano)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
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Recording details: October 2006
Teatro São Luíz, Lisbon, Portugal
Produced by Philip Hobbs
Engineered by Julia Thomas
Release date: October 2005
Total duration: 46 minutes 28 seconds

Cover artwork: Photo of Artur Pizarro and Vita Panomariovaite by Sven Arnstein (b?)

Other recordings available for download

St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Yuri Temirkanov (conductor)


'This is a wonderful release, coupling three of Rimsky-Korsakov's greatest orchestral scores in piano duo arrangements made by the composer himself and by his wife … Scheherazade emerges as a genuine piece of chamber music with a remarkable lack of ostentation in the piano-writing, with extended pedal notes and a concentration on long melodic lines and beauty of tone, and with the inevitable loss of orchestral colour amply made up for by a kaleidoscopic and Impressionist range of piano sonorities … with detailed and informative notes by Peter Avis, and a truthful and realistic recording quality, this is a very welcome release' (International Record Review)» More

'For a composer best-known for his skills as an orchestrator, this piano duo version of some of his most celebrated orchestral works presents Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in a very different light. Two of the arrangements are by the composer himself—Scheherazade and Capriccio espagnol—while Sadko is performed in a version by his wife, the pianist Nadezhda Nikolayevna. Hearing these played by piano duo Artur Pizarro and Vita Panomariovaite inevitably strips the music of much of its heat, but the upside is in witnessing Rimsky-Korsakov's lyrical invention and the mechanics of his music more readily. Pizarro and Panomariovaite deliver their performances with generous panache which is never exaggerated and rarely forced. The broad expressive range of Sadko is impressively covered' (The Scotsman)

'Of all the works on this disc Capriccio espagnol is probably the most successful, both as an arrangement and as a performance. There is a concentration here, an awareness of rhythmic subtlety, that is most impressive. Panomariovaite won a Joaquín Rodrigo prize in 2004, so this is an idiom she must know well. Structurally this arrangement seems much more convincing too, with a real ebb and flow missing until now, not to mention a vigour and sparkle that makes this feel less like an arrangement and more like a work in its own right' (MusicWeb International)

'Perhaps Pizarro's Iberian blood lets him under the skin of Rimsky's Hispanic homage—he and Panomariovaite (who has previously excelled in Spanish repertoire) play with far more drama and finesse; the texture of the 'Variazioni' [Capriccio espagnol] is smooth, whilst the tempos in 'Scena e canto gitano' are controlled—‘pulled up' and ‘let go' with flamenco-style panache' (bbc.co.uk)» More
By the time Rimsky-Korsakov came to compose his symphonic suite, Scheherazade, Op 35 in the winter of 1878–88, he had been co-opted into the circle of Mitrofan Belyayev, the son of a wealthy timber merchant who, after achieving great success in his father’s firm, turned his mind and money to his main desire—music, and the future of Russian music in particular. Belyayev’s contribution to the music of his homeland is an extraordinary labour of love, resolute industry and high-end production. In 1884, he instituted the Glinka Prize, awarded annually to a Russian composer, following this up in 1885 with the Russian Symphony Concerts series and, more important still, he was granted permission to establish his own publishing house in Leipzig, thus securing a form of international copyright for Russian composers. Registered as M.P. Belaieff, the company would publish scores of the most important Russian compositions, from Glinka through ‘The Mighty Handful’ to Scriabin and beyond, in luxurious editions. The house continued to do so after Belyayev’s death until the Soviets appropriated it after the revolution. This vital catalogue passed over to Edition Peters of Leipzig in 1971. Rimsky-Korsakov’s three most popular orchestral compositions were early and most worthy beneficiaries of Belyayev’s publishing largesse: the so-called ‘Russian Easter Festival’ Overture, Capriccio espagnol and, the most widely known of all his works, Scheherazade.

Scheherazade is suffused in orientalism, as Rimsky-Korsakov perceived it, and not only the Russian variety. The composer’s experience of travelling great distances by sea in a navy of the 19th century undoubtedly informed the exotic nature of much of his music. The model for Scheherazade is certainly far flung, emanating from orally transmitted stories from the folklore of the Middle East, Asia and North Africa over many centuries, and eventually notated by Arabic scholars in numerous collections of varying sizes. Known in English as ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ or ‘Arabian Nights’, the stories all emerge from a single over-riding construct whereupon a Persian potentate, Sultan Shahryar, discovers that his brother’s wife, and then his own spouse, have been unfaithful. In his horror and grief, the Sultan assumes that all wives will be the same and so vows to marry a succession of virgins who will be executed the morning after nuptial rites are fulfilled. Soon the Sultan’s Grand Vizier runs out of virgins and is aghast, but accepting, when his daughter offers her services. Scheherazade avoids the morning beheading by telling the Sultan a tale, but not finishing it. And in the succeeding nights she continues in a similar manner, either not ending, or only just beginning a fascinating, kaleidoscope of tales which range over a bewildering array of topics, from myth and medicine to adventure and erotica. The common factor, as in all effective serial drama, is that the Sultan retires to bed wanting more. And Scheherazade keeps her head.

Rimsky-Korsakov’s response to this extraordinary creation is to produce his own kaleidoscope of grand invention and swirling, ecstatic storytelling. Originally entitling the four movements Prelude, Ballade, Adagio and Finale, the composer was persuaded to add descriptive titles, but withdrew them because for him the piece was essentially a symphonic work which evoked oriental and fairytale images and character. Writing in his marvellous autobiography, ‘My Musical Life’, he maintains that these titles were to ‘direct but slightly the hearer’s fancy on the path along which my own fancy has travelled’. Despite this, the movements have inherited titles: ‘The sea and Sinbad’s ship’; ‘The legend of the Kalendar Prince’; ‘The young Prince and the young Princess’; and ‘Festival at Baghdad’. It seems clear from the work that the stark, strong opening motif represents the angry, sorrowful Sultan, while Scheherazade’s thread is the beautiful, sinuous solo violin telling its tales with fervour and abandon. Both ‘characters’ are evident, in one form or another throughout the work, until the high violin at the finale seems to calm the Sultan’s anger as his ire sinks beneath her eloquence and charm.

Setting out in his youth to promote the advancement of a purely Russian musical art, Rimsky-Korsakov’s devotion to constant learning, and the clarity instilled through revising, editing and arranging both his own musical thoughts, as well as those of other composers, ensured that his influence extended far beyond his homeland, spreading forward into the European avant-garde of the following generation—to Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky and beyond.

from notes by M Ross © 2013

Other albums featuring this work

Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade & The invisible city of Kitezh
SIGCD320Download only
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