As a showcase for the Orquesta Filarmónica de la Ciudad de México under conductor Enrique Bátiz, this disc of Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestra music is distinctly underwhelming. Bátiz is a more than competent but less than entirely commanding conductor and while the overall thrust of the music is clear, many of its melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic details are smudged and smeared. Nor is Bátiz a particularly exciting much less thrilling conductor and while there is plenty of sound and fury, it is, to mix allusions, merely the banging of bells and the clashing of cymbals. But while Bátiz is on occasion a more convincing conductor with first-rate European orchestras, the Orquesta Filarmónica de la Ciudad de México is all too clearly a third-rate orchestra. Their strings are scrappy, their winds are soupy, their brass is sloppy, their percussion is way too loud and their ensemble is just this side of professional and, perhaps worst of all, their colors are coarse and garish. Listen to the first few minutes of the opening Capriccio espagñol, to the tinny trumpet, to the out-of-tune clarinet, to the barely together rhythms and to the unrestrained vulgarity of the percussion. There are many better recordings of Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestral works by Russian symphonies under Russian conductors -- try, for example, Evgeny Svetlanov's gorgeous and glorious recordings on Melodiya -- but stay away from Bátiz and the Ciudad de México Filarmónica's recording. It doesn't seem as though Sanctuary took the time to remaster ASV's 1985 recording; it is as shallow, harsh, and two-dimensional as the original.
Review by James Leonard