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  PentaTone Classics -
  PTC 5186 378
  Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade, Capriccio Espagnol - Ponti
  Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade Op. 35, Capriccio Espagnol Op. 34, Neapolitan Song Op. 63

Russian National Orchestra
Carlo Ponti (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Reviews: 3
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Site review by Polly Nomial November 8, 2011
Performance:   Sonics:  
Extraordinary stuff.

This account and Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade, Borodin, Balakirev - Gergiev are polar opposites in some respects - in particular the sound here is so much better it's hard to describe. Arguably one of Pentatone's demonstration sonic recordings, the Gergiev is more akin to a poor effort at a 128k MP3 in the harshness of the sound and the terrible swimming pool-like aspect to the reverberation makes Gergiev's account a challenge for all the wrong reasons.

The playing though is on a similarly distinguished level. Indeed, the biography of Carlo Ponti make it clear that he has devoted a great deal of his time to working with and developing the levels of artistic achievement with young people. This admirable devotion is born out by the execution of the Russian National Orchestra for one would be hard pressed to find a more beautifully and accurately rendered account of these glittering scores - exceptional playing.

Also in the biography of Carlo Ponti is the claim that he "... is known for taking audiences of all ages on musical journeys of unique interpretative depth." The playing he commands here certainly fits that description, for never have these ears heard such a bland or passionless account of Scheherazade - these are supposed to be tales that bewitched a Sultan, not children's bedtime stories. Sadly the Capriccio Espagnol is no better and all that can be said is that this disc is a waste of the artists, production teams and listeners time.

Not recommended at all - the performance star (which could easily merit 5-stars were a conductor the calibre of Pletnev or Gergiev holding the baton) is for the playing only.

Copyright © 2011 John Broggio and

Site review by Castor September 28, 2011
Performance:   Sonics:  
Two of the three Rimski-Korsakov works on this SACD are very popular orchestral show-pieces that over many years have received numerous recordings, but surprisingly few on SACD, arguably the ideal medium on which to display such colourful and instantly appealing music. For that reason alone the appearance of this new disc is to be welcomed. However, Carlo Ponti's first programme of Russian music for PentaTone Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition - Ponti received somewhat mixed reviews for his performances both on this site and elsewhere. Not having heard that recording, I approached this new one with, I hope, an unprejudiced mind.

As indicated above, the plethora of fine versions of both 'Scheherazade' and 'Capriccio espagnol' in versions by some of the greatest maestros of the past, provide a major challenge for any new contender intent on emulating or exceeding their achievements. Unfortunately, it becomes quickly apparent that Carlo Ponti's performances of the two main works are characterised by caution rather than flare, (the less than arresting opening bars of 'Scheherazade' are typical), and can appear inhibited and restrained when the music calls for forward thrust and drive. The outer sections of the 'Capriccio espagnol' are taken at a rather sedate pace that dissipates much of the music's excitement, and this is also true of the second and fourth movements of 'Scheherazade'. Conversely, Ponti's swift yet flowing tempo for ' The Young Prince and the Young Princess' works very well, unlike that adopted by Fritz Reiner Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade - Reiner who is uncharacteristically self-indulgent in this movement.

On the plus side, there is no doubt that Ponti's generally relaxed tempi do allow appreciation of some fine solo playing from individual members of the RNO, especially that of the two concertmasters,Tatiana Porshneva (Scheherazade) and Alexei Bruni (Capriccio). What is totally missing in these performances is any evidence of a strong interpretive stance from the conductor that would lift them from the routine and mundane to something special.

The disc ends with a delightful lollipop, almost worth the price of the disc alone. Rimski-Korsakov's 'Neapolitan Song' is a sparkling arrangement for orchestra of Luigi Denza's popular song 'Funiculi, Funiculà. Written in 1907, the penultimate year of the composer's life, it encapsulates in just 3'39 his compositional brilliance and dazzling powers of orchestration. The RNO really sound as if they are enjoying performing this rare novelty, a piece that would make a terrific concert encore.

Those seeking demonstration quality recorded sound need look no further. Some of the finest PentaTone issues have emanated from the DZZ Studio 5 in Moscow and this one is no exception. The body and richness of the RNO's fine orchestral playing has been captured with remarkable fidelity. The sound-stage is wide and deep, while Ponti's seating of the players allows antiphonal exchanges between first and second violins to be clearly audible. Percussion and brass are viscerally thrilling throughout.

To sum up. For sonics this recording is nonpareil, but look elsewhere (Reiner, Beecham Kondrashin et al.) if performance is your priority.

Copyright © 2011 Graham Williams and

Review by Jones12 November 8, 2011 (8 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I am new to the SACD format and just purchased a multi-channel amplifier and am very
very impressed with the Russian National Orchestra's latest Rimsky-Korsakov release.

The Russian National Orchestra's performance of these popular Rimsky-Korsakov works is full of vitality.
Conductor Carlo Ponti gives all the works on the album a clear sense of interpretive design and fosters
faultless playing from his ensemble.

Scheherazade benefits from an emotional performance of the solo
violin part by Tatiana Porshneva which imbues the work with a sensitivity and flair not often found in
readings of this famous piece.

Alexei Bruni's incisive playing in the Capriccio Espagnol is
equally impressive by its sheer virtuosity and all the solo instruments get their chance to shine.

An brilliant reading of the rarely recorded Neapolitan Song crowns this impressive release from Pentatone Classics.

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Works: 3  

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov - Capriccio espagnol, Op. 34
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov - Neapolitan Song, Op. 63
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov - Scheherazade, Op. 35