- Scheherazade, symphonic suite for orchestra, Op. 35
- Symphony No.2 in B minor
In 1978, after a long and prominent career in the Soviet Union that included a 15-year stint as artistic director of the Moscow Symphony, Kiril Kondrashin emigrated to the Netherlands during a concert tour abroad. The following year, he became conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the recordings included on this disc date from his all-too-brief tenure there, which lasted until his death in 1981. The Concertgebouw must have been a hospitable appointment for Kondrashin, judging from these fine performances, and the orchestra was a lucky beneficiary of the conductor's deep affinity for Russian music. Scheherazade Rimsky-Korsakov's oft-recorded masterpiece of exotica, is thoroughly riveting here, with the orchestra's lustrous tone molded by Kondrashin into a sequence of richly detailed, lushly Romantic musical narratives that build to a thrilling conclusion. Concertgebouw concertmaster Herman Krebbers brings a poignant, delicate beauty to the violin solos, but the orchestra's horns and woodwind soloists contribute nearly as much to the performance's brilliance -- as do the Concertgebouw's spacious acoustics. Alexander Borodin's Symphony No. 2 -- along with Scheherazade, one of the greatest orchestral works by Russia's nationalistic "Mighty Handful" -- is heard here in a live recording from 1980. Like Borodin's music itself, this performance is rawer than the high-gloss Rimsky-Korsakov, but Kondrashin etches an irresistible reading of this work from its brutal opening rhythmic gestures to the wildly swirling festivities of its finale. There's no shortage of good recordings of either of these showpieces, but you'll hard pressed to find any more thoroughly enjoyable than Kondrashin's.