Peter Oundjian / Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Rimsky-Korsakov: Sheherazade

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The symphonic suite Shéhérazade is one of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's most popular works because it is vivid in its exotic orchestral colors, evocative in its sinuous melodies, and stirring in its lavish depictions of subjects from the Arabian Nights. Completed in 1888, the work is representative of the Orientalism that was favored by Russian composers, not least by Rimsky-Korsakov, who repeatedly turned to Eastern stories and imagery for inspiration. He wanted to create an impression of Shéhérazade's nightly tales without tying himself too literally to specific stories, so he didn't give these tone poems a specific program, just the suggestive titles that head each section: The Sea and Sinbad's Ship; The Kalender Prince; The Young Prince and the Young Princess; Festival at Baghdad - The Sea - The Shipwreck. Yet even without a narrative, the piece works as a musical tour de force because of its dramatic contrasts of mood, the spellbinding interplay of infectious melodies, and the dazzling instrumental exchanges that call for truly virtuosic playing. Peter Oundjian leads the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in a highly energetic performance that is compelling from start to finish, and the hybrid SACD format captures the rich and vibrant sonorities with extraordinary fidelity and presence. This is not only an audiophile's delight, but it is a genuinely exciting performance that anyone can appreciate, whether on super audio equipment or a standard CD player.

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