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Mikhail Ivanovich GLINKA
A Life for the Tsar - Suite
Capriccio Brillante
Souvenir d'une nuit d'ete a Madrid

Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Loris Tjeknavorian
recorded 21 / 22 July 1999, Aram Khatchaturian Hall, Yerevan, Armenia (DDD).
ASV CD DCA 1075 [70.39]

ASV has been very fortunate with their series featuring the Armenian Philharmonic with Lois Tjecknavorian. Most of the discs so far issued have been artistically very successful, and by concentrating on a specific part of the repertoire, they have ensured that the strong points of this combination are put to good use with the material they have recorded.

This next disc in the series is no exception. Apart from a twofer from RCA, there are relatively few records in the market which are dedicated exclusively to Glinka, and so if you wish to buy such a disc, there is relatively little competition.

That however would be irrelevant if the current disc was unsatisfactory, which I am very pleased to say it is not. Here, we have the Armenians in their familiar guise, accurate, brilliant playing, with a sense of style and colour which is often not present in other recordings of Glinka's music. The folk like rhythms are brilliantly executed, supporting the composer's colourful orchestration which altogether add up to a stunning issue.

In addition ASV's sound is first rate, masterminded by Brian Culverhouse. This is music which needs good recording quality to make an impact, and the alternative RCA issue falls down a little here by comparison, although the performances are just as good.

The suite from "a Life for the Tsar" is more complete than most other recordings of these pieces, containing as it does the Overture, and the Polonaise, Krakowiak, Waltz, Mazurka and Epilogue. The opera had its first performance in 1836, and was based upon the period in Russian history which ended in 1613, and resulted in the accession of Mikhail Romanov, the founder of the dynasty which was to rule Russia for the next 300 years. The second act of the opera deals with the intervention of the Polish allies who were drafted in by the "false Demetrius", to support his accession to the throne vacated by Boris Godunov in 1605. We are treated to the series of dances which form part of a ball scene in Act 2 pt on by the Poles. We have here the Polonaise, Krakowiak, Waltz and Mazurka. and the selection ends with the entr'acte which leads into the epilogue at the end of the opera.

The remaining half of the disc is taken up by other popular works by Glinka, all of which have become orchestral showpieces in their own right. Glinka visited Spain for two years in 1843, and there, captivated by local folk music, sketched out a dazzling Spanish overture, Capriccio Brillante. The second overture, although inspired by his visit to Spain, was not written until later - this being Souvenir d'une nuite d'ete a Madrid. Having completed these Spanish pieces, Glinka turned his attention to the enormous wealth of Russian folk music, and Kamarinskaya was the result, a fantasy on two Russian folk songs. The remaining piece on this highly entertaining record is the Valse Fantasie, orchestrated by the composer in 1856 from a piano piece, written years before.


John Phillips


John Phillips

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