Sascha Goetzel / Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra

Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade

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The Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra takes as its mission the exploration of multicultural influences, not only in western classical music, but also in eastern European repertoire. This album of late 19th and early 20th century works focuses on the orientalism that was frequently the subject of the works of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Mily Balakirev (members of the celebrated Mighty Handful of Russian nationalist composers), and Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, Rimsky-Korsakov's student. Orientalism also found a place in the music of Turkish composer Ulvi Cemal Erkin. Because of its instant appeal and considerable length, Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade is the center of attention on this 2014 Onyx release, and conductor Sascha Goetzel and the orchestra lavish it with sumptuous sonorities and stirring expression, giving a vivid rendition of this suite based on the Tales of 1001 Nights. Included in this version of Scheherazade are brief improvisational interludes featuring the lute-like Oud and the zither-like Qanun, which lend the performance a heightened degree of exotic color. Following this masterpiece inevitably must make any remaining pieces seem like filler, though Balakirev's Islamey and Ippolitov-Ivanov's In a Village and the Procession of the Sardar from Caucasian Sketches enjoy continued popularity. Here, In a Village is treated to a substitution of the Ney flute for the indicated cor anglais, emphasizing the melody's wayward mood. What will be new to most western listeners is Erkin's Köçekçe, a lively dance rhapsody that closes the album with a whirl of polymeters and sparkling orchestration that dazzles with its high woodwinds and percussion.

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