Scheherazade and Polovtsian Dances

Ever since I first heard Beecham’s recordings of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances on EMI’s Great Recordings of the Century series, I have thought of Sir Thomas Beecham as some kind of conductor-super-hero. Beecham was a very sought after conductor and those orchestras that were fortunate enough to perform with him were inspired to great achievements. The performances on this disc with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Beecham Choral Society and Steven Staryk (violin) are so engaging that it’s difficult to communicate; you’ll just have to listen for yourself.

The Scheherazade is entertaining throughout (which isn’t always the case with other recordings of the work), especially the last movement of Scheherazade is on fire. The Polovtsian dances are the version with choir and is no less engaging than the rest of the disc.

The recordings are done in stereo and sound great despite that the Scheherazade is recorded in 1958. (Polovtsian is recorded in 1974.) I love vintage sound like this. It has great resolution and a decent frequency spectrum. The strings are the instruments that sound most dated, but that sound is only charming.

If there was a conductor who could be suspected of having super hero powers, it’s Sir Thomas Beecham. In my eyes his conducting is both super and heroic. He even had a Choir named after him, how cool is that?

I will surely check out other recordings by Thomas in the future. I already consider him a friend.

Listen to the album through Spotify (account is required).

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3 Responses to Scheherazade and Polovtsian Dances

  1. Geir K.-A. says:

    Interesting choice of Scheherazade. My ears have been abused for years by the horrible and rushed Naxos-recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra/Batiz. By the way, is it possible to hear the soaring violin flageolets properly in the first movement? I have a fond memory of hearing the recording with Ernest Ansermet/L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (another “historical” option), in extremely clear sound.

    Another Beecham-classic is of course La Boheme with Jussi Björling and Victoria de los Angeles, but opera in mono is perhaps not your thing? 😉

  2. Mr. Blue says:

    I agree that Batiz’ interpretation is a bit too rushed.

    The violin flageolets are clearly heard in Beecham’s recording. (Of course they are—it’s Beecham!)

    I haven’t hard the Ansermet recording you mention, but now I’m checking out a Scheherazade with Ansermet conducting the Orchestre De La Société Des Concerts Du Conservatoire (try remembering that name…). It sounds promising!

    Mono recordings are no problem to me; I have a bigger problem with understanding opera 😉

  3. Pingback: One Year with Fine Music « Short Ride in Fine Music

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