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NIKOLAI RIMSKY-KORSAKOV - Orchestral Suites - Mikhail Pletnev (Conductor) - Russian National Orchestra - Hybrid SACD - 827949036262 - Pentatone PTC5186362

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) was not only a great composer, he was also a wizard at orchestration. He wrote a substantial book on the subject titled 'The Principles of Orchestration', which is still in print today. Everyone is familiar with his exotic and colorful Scheherazade, one of the most famous orchestral showpieces of all time. The Orchestral Suites on this recording display the same orchestration skills and magic that this composer excelled at.

These works by the way are all orchestral suites put together from material taken from three of his best operas. The Suite from "Snow Maiden" concludes with another famous orchestral firework, the famous Dance of the Tumblers, a piece that demonstrates well the prowess of an orchestra. The final movement from the Suite from "Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh" contains some hair-raising segments where the brass section of the orchestra really lets it rip. And if the lights were out, there are moments within the Suite from "Night on Mount Triglav" where I think the orchestra would glow from all the sonic energy being released. Even during the softest passages there are magical orchestral effects written within the music that bring these legendary fairy tales to life.

This superb Pentatone recording, sonically three-dimensional and with plenty of dynamic headroom, couldn't fit this music any better. From the loudest percussion thumps to the softest pings on the triangle, every subtle orchestral nuance and color is reproduced with sharp focus. And of course, pianist turned conductor Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra eat music like this for breakfast. It's in their blood. The story that unfolds within the music is their story. No wonder they perform this material so well.

Jean-Yves Duperron