2020 Album of the Year – Classical Orchestral
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For their 6th DSD release at NativeDSD Music, the Oslo Philharmonic under the baton of Vasily Petrenko perform Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol, Op. 34, coupled with the Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op. 36 and Scheherazade, Op. 35, Symphonic Suite.
This recording of Rimsky-Korsakov with the Oslo Philharmonic continues their journey together and is sure to generate critical acclaim. Previous Strauss recordings were selected as “Editor’s Choice” by Gramophone Magazine and were universally critically acclaimed: Gramophone Magazine: “There’s no lack of excitement or, where needed, bombast, and the Osloers’ sound at full throttle is thrilling, their playing superb.” The Sunday Times: “As Petrenko’s tenure in Oslo begins to wind down, he revels in the standards of orchestral virtuosity he has attained with this excellent band in two Strauss tone poems that challenge all-instrumental departments…the Osloers shine brilliantly.”
It was Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s older brother, Voin, who first put ideas of travel, ships, and the sea into the would-be composer’s head. The young Nikolay had never set foot aboard a boat but Voin’s evocative letters home from the Far East, where he was stationed in the Imperial Russian Navy proved more than sufficient. In 1856, he enrolled as a naval cadet and completed six years of training.
Barely a year into his studies at the naval academy, the young Nikolay saw his first opera. Soon he heard symphonies by Beethoven and Mendelssohn and encountered a piece by his senior Mikhail Glinka, Jota Aragonesa. Even before he embarked on a three-year voyage around the world aboard a clipper, Rimsky knew he wanted to be a composer, not a seaman. Afterward, having sailed into some of the great ports of the world, he returned home happy never to leave Russia again the only journeys Rimsky wanted to make were musical.
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
Vasily Petrenko, Conductor
Total time: 01:14:52
|Original Recording Format|
Thomas Wolden, Vegard Landaas
Oslo Concert Hall on May 25-29, 2019
Pyramix, Merging Technologies
|Recording Type & Bit Rate|
|Release Date||June 12, 2020|
The Sunday Times
Petrenko’s tenure in Oslo may have lasted for only a third of his predecessor Mariss Jansons’s 21 seasons with the orchestra, but his impact has been as potent.
Here he conducts a Russian classic, Rimsky’s pictures of Arabian Nights derring-do and voyages across the sea, which swells through the orchestra’s rhapsodic ebb and flow. The concertmaster Batnes is beguiling.
NativeDSD Senior Reviewer
An excellent recording. Sure you’ve heard these pieces before, but Petrenko really blows the cobwebs off!
The Arts Desk
Few contemporary conductors seem as prolific in the recording studio as Vasily Petrenko, albums with his orchestras in Liverpool and Oslo emerging with unnerving frequency. The consistency is impressive though, Petrenko’s high hit-rate recalling the halcyon days of Neeme Järvi and the RSNO in the mid-1980s. It takes rare talent to make the most familiar repertoire sound newly-minted, and this Oslo Rimsky-Korsakov anthology is a zinger.
That these three works are so popular doesn’t mean that they’re not good. Yes, Rimsky-Korsakov was a master orchestrator and understood how to write idiomatically for every instrument, but his music doesn’t play itself. Petrenko’s Capriccio Espagnol is great fun. Especially when the fourth section’s fast bit gets underway, preceded by some delectable solo work. Petrenko’s rhythmic alertness is one of his strengths. Everything is perfectly placed, little details like the semiquavers on low brass and horns so, so right, without derailing the music’s momentum. The Russian Easter Festival Overture is similarly well handled, the closing section’s chimes anticipating Rachmaninov.
This Scheherazade is another keeper, Petrenko assiduously following Rimsky Koraskov’s dynamic markings and hitting the first fortissimo to startling effect five or so minutes in. The Oslo Philharmonic’s leader Elise Båtnes is a magnetic soloist, matched by the orchestra’s solo winds and brass. Have the trumpet and trombone calls in the second movement ever sounded so brazen, so full of character? “The Young Prince and The Young Princess” delights, though the best is saved for later, the last movement’s reprise of the suite’s main theme overwhelming. Exciting stuff indeed; a great romantic symphony in all but name. Sumptuous recorded sound to boot, and alluring art.
Presto Classical – Recording of the Week
With the prospect of exploring far-off lands and places firmly off the menu for most of the world this summer, the musical postcards and fantastical journeys which spring vividly to life on today’s Recording of the Week could be just what the doctor ordered for many of us: the Oslo Philharmonic and their outgoing (in both senses of the word) Chief Conductor Vasily Petrenko make for sparkling travelling-companions in three of Rimsky-Korsakov’s best-known works, Capriccio Espagnol, the Russian Easter Festival Overture and Scheherazade, on a recording which showcases the composer’s brilliance as an orchestrator to precision-engineered perfection.
2020 is a year of transition for the remarkable Russian conductor, as his tenure in Oslo draws to a close and he prepares to take over as Music Director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra this autumn. With a fascinating Prokofiev/Myaskovsky project already in the can, this isn’t quite the end of the story for the partnership recording-wise, but the album serves as a colourful summary of everything which he and the orchestra have achieved together over the past seven years: immaculate ensemble, individual and collective virtuosity, and above all the gift for compelling musical story-telling which also made their series of Strauss tone-poems such a joy.
I had the pleasure of spending the best part of an hour speaking with Petrenko about the project and his time in Oslo more generally last month, and the concision and clarity with which he communicated his ideas about these scores gave me some idea of the energy and focus which he doubtless brings to the rehearsal-process; that clarity translates readily into sound, with every interpretative detail we discussed registering loud and clear on the recording. The stark, exposed opening of Scheherazade (which he cheerfully described as a moment where ‘most conductors just pray!’) has not so much as a hair out of place in terms of ensemble and blend, and in the long sea-voyage which follows you can practically smell the ocean: there’s a real sense of the ebb and flow of the waves, the resistance of Sinbad’s ship as it ploughs through the water, and even the flecks of sea-spray (captured quite brilliantly by LAWO’s engineers, who don’t miss a trick throughout).
Much of this atmosphere is generated by the care which Petrenko and his players take over accompanying figures, which never lapse into monotony even when the notes on the page remain unvaried for long stretches at a time, something which also pays dividends in the Tale of the Kalandar Prince which follows and which also shines a spotlight on the mighty Oslo brass, who keep their powder dry for much of the recording but blaze all the more brightly for it when allowed off the leash. Pacing, too, is quite marvellously judged here and above all in the final movement, where the impact of the shipwreck registers with shocking immediacy thanks to Petrenko’s eye for the long game, with no sense of peaking too soon in terms of tempo or dynamics.
Before all of this there’s an equally characterful Capriccio Espagnol, almost balletically light on its feet and shot through with a wonderfully folky, out-of-doors charm, with especially fine work from the principal clarinet and the Norwegian leader Elise Båtnes (who has plenty of centre-stage moments in all three works and acquits herself with eloquence and grace on all counts). The Russian Easter Festival Overture also benefits from a relatively light touch (though the bassoons supply lugubrious gravitas in spades when required), the balance and ensemble in the winds again pitch-perfect in the chorale-like sections and the entire piece unfolding with plenty of forward momentum and direction so that nothing ever sags or loses impetus.
But it’s Scheherazade which is the main event, and it plays out like an opera without words here. That final violin solo, phrased and coloured like a miniature aria as the master story-teller bids her bitter-sweet farewell, is more movingly realised here than on just about any other recording or live performance I’ve heard; on several levels it’s an apt metaphor for Petrenko himself as he departs to spin his spellbinding musical narratives in pastures new.
Challenge Records International
Love, love, love this Scheherazade! Forget anything you expect about the composition or the composer, this is a new and original experience. And with good equipment, the audio quality is electrifying! Thank You!
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