Kees Bakels, Malaysian Philharmonic

Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio Espagnol, Piano Concerto, Sadko

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol and Russian Easter Overture are glittering warhorses, works that have been played by innumerable orchestras. This recording by the Malaysian Philharmonic, lead by relatively unknown conductor Kees Bakels, may seem an unlikely contender. What’s so special? The music flies off the score as if newly discovered, yet totally free and unrestrained. In short, it rocks! Tempos are deliberately accelerated or extended. First-chair soloists are superb. Bakels adds a wild Flight of the Bumblebee, which some CDs unwisely omit, back into the Tsar Saltan suite. The moody tone poem Sadko here evokes the luminous mystery of Bernard Herrmann’s Hitchcock film scores. And among these famous pieces you’ll also find a delightful performance of Rimsky’s rarely heard Piano Concerto.