Press Reviews


MAGNIFICENT REVIEW IN FANFARE MAGAZIN Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade, Op. 35 Cologne New Philharmonic Orchestra, Volker Hartung by Steven Kruger
It would be hard to imagine these days how many thousand-and-one choices there are for a recorded performance of Rimsky-Koraskov’s Scheherazade, most of them perfectly fine. (Does anyone know of a bad one?) The suite has been popular for well over a century. But hats off to youthful imagination here for what it can still conjure of romance in this ancient tale of the Arabian Nights! I’ve known the music for many decades. I’ve even thought at times I might be bored with it. But for vividness, impassioned color, and commitment, this account by a Rhineland post-conservatory training orchestra simply gobsmacks me. It’s as good as any performance you are likely to hear.
I confess to having clicked on the New Cologne Philharmonic with a certain condescension, half expecting to encounter the usual amateur amalgam of raw student energies, stodgy conducting, intermittently coherent textures, drunken-tuba brass sonorities, bows hitting stands, dropped mouthpieces, and rustling noises from clueless struggle with the sheet music. Not at all! Instead, I find a beautifully polished professional account of the music, gleaming from head to toe, gorgeously recorded in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw and vibrantly alive with interest. The sheer quality of rounded, satiny string playing made me sit up from the outset. Volker Hartung, the orchestra’s longtime leader (he’s 63) has managed to weld it into a single unit. His strings insinuate themselves into a phrase with a lovely push-me-pull-you and proceed to soar. This is a serene, airy, Romantic version of the suite, all movements taken at normal tempo, but utterly without that cynical “here we go again” feeling one can get from a famous orchestra sawing its way once more through familiar music. There is not a weak player to be heard. Instead, all the soloists seem fascinated with the colors they can create, and in the slow movement the strings evince as much swoopiness as swoopy allows. This is a performance of unusually beautiful small moments, tiny tempo shifts, little brass crescendos and transitional dovetailings of this and that. And rhythmically, I give it the best compliment I know—it’s well sprung.
By now you have the idea. I’m running out of adjectives. The release includes two arrangements of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee as encore, one featuring Lika Yakupova on violin, the other with Michael Schubert on flute. Both are done with genuine virtuosity. You can choose your sting. Meanwhile, enjoy Scheherazade, as passionate and new here under youthful fingers as the day it was composed. © 2019 Fanfare
The album is vailable in HD-Audio at:
and at all other Media Platforms: