I’ve been meaning to throw this in for a while. My friend Dave E in Brisbane sent this to me for my 30th birthday. First off, I’ve got to say congratulations to him for having a crack at buying me a CD. Because I like classical music, a lot of people don’t attempt that – or certainly don’t attempt buying me a classical music CD anyway.
And I’m so glad I got this one, because it’s the kind of thing I probably would never have gone out and bought for myself, but it’s such an awesome disc, that I’m really glad I’ve got it.
It has three major works on it. The pick of the bunch, by far, is Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. Back when it was written, the Arabian Nights books were a big hit, and so Rimsky-Korsakov wrote a four-movement piece (it has four sections, in other words) basecd around the theme of the books. It’s not strictly a blow by blow story soundtrack, but if your imagination wanders to things exotic and middle-Eastern (think Prince of Persia, for those of you who are into computer games), then you’ll get the general vibe.
The first violin has to do a lot of work, because the Scheherazade of the story was the wife of the Sultan who told him a different story every night for 1001 nights until he decided to marry her. So her theme is a rich exotic one on solo violin which appears at various times throughout the work, almost as if she’s telling the rest of the piece, and she just appears from time to time.
It very much has the feel of film music, even though this pre-dates film, because it will often alternate between Scheherazade telling the story, turbulent music of action and danger, and then more romantic music. It all reminded me very much of the finales on those old swashbuckling films of the 30s and 40s.
This particular recording is from the 60s, so the orchestra isn’t quite as sharp as you get with modern recordings, but you won’t even notice. They’ve cleaned the sound up so well, and everything has so much oomph, and the Scheherazade violin solos are so spot-on perfect (they’re pretty tricky, believe me), that there’s not a boring moment for the whole 45 minutes.
The second piece on the disc is the Cappricio Italien by Tchaikovsky. This piece is quite loud and spectacular to listen to, but for some reason, it seems to pale compared with the Rimsky-Korsakov. I’m not sure whether it’s the piece isn’t quite as gripping or the performance isn’t as good. I’m not sure.
And, finally, we finish with possibly the biggest orchestral chestnut of all time – the 1812 Overture. Because (as you might have guessed from the title) the music on this overture actually has a lot to do with the theme of War and Peace, I shall come back and write a bit more about this overture later in the reading project.
But for now, I think I just need to say that if you want to listen to some awesome orchestral music that really has stood the test of time, get hold of this disc – and play it on a stereo, not your tinny little iPod headphones. This stuff deserves to fill a room with sound!
5 out of 5 for the Scheherazade, jury’s still out on the other two.