> Immortal Classics 16Cd edition [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- July2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Immortal Classics
16 CD Special Edition Picture Classics


The Four Seasons

Oboe Concerto in A minor
Bassoon Concerto in B flat major
Flute Concerto in F major

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

Clarinet Concerto
Flute Concerto No. 2

Symphony No.9
Slavonic Dances 1-5

Piano Concerto
Peer Gynt Suites 1 and 2

Violin Concerto
Overture - The Hebrides
Symphony No. 4 The Italian

Symphony No. 9 Choral

Swan Lake and Nutcracker - excerpts


Symphony No. 1
Academic Festival Overture

Four Pieces for piano

Messiah highlights


Blue Danube
Voices of Spring
Viennese Bonbons
An Artist's Life
Morning Papers
Where the Lemon Trees Bloom
Vienna Blood
Parting with St Petersburg


Piano Concertos 4 and 5

1812 Overture

Symphony No. 6 Pathétique
Marche Slave


Excerpts from Joan of Arc; Macbeth; Trovatore; Rigoletto; Traviata; Sicilian Vespers; Don Carlos; Forza del Destino

Symphony No. 40
Symphony No. 41
Two Marches K335

Symphony No 5
Symphony No. 8 Unfinished
Rosamunde - Entr'acte and ballet music
rec - no dates or locations given but DDD 20 bit, Georgia, Lithuania, Russian Federation - probably 1990s.
PRISM PLATBX 862 [74+69+69+65+67+70+74+72+59+60+72+74+73+69+70+72]


direct from
16 CD set 14.99 (the site says 19.99).
Prism Leisure Corp
Unit 1
Dencoa Business Centre
Dundee Way
Middlesex EN3 7SX
UK 0208 804 8100


Putting my time where my mouth is I decided that I should review this set. I confess to having sampled rather than played every disc all the way through.

This is bargain basement material and I am not quite sure where you will see this set. It can be ordered direct from Prism (details below) but will it ever appear in Tower or HMV? I doubt it.

I have always wanted the site to give greater coverage to the bargain labels and to avoid the predictable sniffiness of those critics who have already made up their minds about a performance from seeing the price, packaging and some obscure (often Eastern European) artists.

This set comes attractively packaged in a sleeve the size of an old LP cover. The CDs sit in slit pockets with a polystyrene click stem holding them reasonably firmly. The packaging is no great shakes but it will have to do. There are no notes whatsoever. The artists are named but that's about it.

The discs are made in Israel. I noted that their numbers are not consecutive. Are there others out there? Is this part of a joint Georgian-Lithuanian venture to create a bargain price library of the 'great classics'.



Philharmonica SO/Igor Ivanenko

Virile big band playing and voluptuous tone from Peter Vladimirov (violin). Romanticised and rather enjoyable and the same can be said of the oboe, bassoon and recorder contributions from Stanislav Lugovoi, Roman Lebedev and Andrei Subbotin respectively. Sample the warm whirlwinds of summer in track 6. Non-PC performances and none the worse for that. Harpsichord continuo used. Oddly wheezy sounding recorder in this cheeky little concerto.


Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (St Petersburg CO/Viacheslav Suvorov) a bassy recording with brilliant strings. Rather tremulous thin-toned strings in the second movement but plenty of feeling. Nice resistance-less flightiness in the finale. Very pleasant. Clarinet Concerto (Grigori Riumin (cl) / St Petersburg CO Muse / Leonid Malyshev). More big band style. A fair account of the work with a particularly cheeky and pert finale but not outstanding. Flute Concerto (Valgis Marcinkiavichius (fl) / Baltic Festival Orch / Vitas Antonavichius). This is visited with a specially colossal sound which the cognoscenti will find at odds with the intimate character of the flute. The Lithuanian strings lack the ample tone of their St Petersburg counterparts.


Symphony No. 9: (Philharmonica SO/Igor Ivanenko). Scrappy and disengaged at first but soon pulls itself together. Third movement very nicely done. Last movement seems rather too accented to the point of losing articulation. Why only five of the Slavonic Dances? Done with charm undermined in the noisier first dance by the impression of a massive orchestra rather too heavy on its feet - too much pudding before the dance. Good attack in the third dance.


Piano Concerto (Vakhtang Badrishvili (piano) / Georgian SIMI Festival Orch / Nodar Tsatishvili). Same orchestra and conductor for the Gynt suites. Tender work from conductor and orchestra in the concerto. Overly accented and pointful approach by Badrishvili. Good performances of the Gynt music. You could do much worse. Perhaps roughnesses of execution in the delicate third movement of the first suite. Tsatishvili is outstandingly calm and tender in the final section of the second suite.


Baltic Festival Orch/Yong Lee. Roughness of execution and ensemble mar the Hebrides overture and the Symphony. Treble emphasis on the concerto recording of the Philharmonica SO/Ivanenko with soloist Vadim Storozhuk the only cloud on this particular horizon. Otherwise a nice performance with the same big hall sound as the Vivaldi.


Symphony No. 9. Georgian SIMI Festival Orch, SIMI Festival Choir? Georgy Chavchavadse / Nodar Tsatishvili. Caramelised atmosphere in the third movement. Lovely atmosphere in the finale but generally unkempt. Vocal quartet: Nugzar Abashidze (bass) Timur Dvali (ten); Irina Tikhmirova (alto); Lija Abdrashvili (sop) - men good; women variable. Enjoyable performance with whopping acres of tone and tempest from the choir.

TCHAIKOVSKY ballet music.

15 movements from Swan Lake; 10 from Nutcracker. Nice rustic pacing (2); raucous (4, 11); haunting with lovely harp balance (6, 10); reedy young cygnets (8). So-so rather than good. Nutcracker: I loved the trumpet in 17; clickety-clackety bassoon keys (19); Lovely playing in Nutcracker. A shame we could not have had a collection drawn entirely from that ballet. The Georgian SIMI orchestra is not to be sniffed at. They perhaps work more easefully with Tsatishvili (Nutcracker) than with Nazoe Kinkladze. Imaginative music making seeming more fluent in Nutcracker.


Clod-hopping overture from St Petersburg Festival Orchestra and Leonid Malyshev (not recommendable). The First Symphony brings us to Tsatishvili again. This is strong and highly romantic. Idiomatic playing with the pacing well judged notably in the third movement. A tendency towards garbled textures in the bass heavy shadows of the first and last movements. Slavonic wobble in the famous horn solo (3.23) - a demerit. Plenty of depth and impact and a real head of steam in the last five minutes. A pretty good version from which to get to know the symphony. Julia Tretiakova leads us reliably through the Op.119 pieces. More might have been secured with greater attention to variety of dynamics.

HANDEL Messiah excerpts. Baltic Chamber Orchestra; Riga Festival Choir, cond Rimantas Vivalias. About an hour's worth. Soloists not named. Comfort Ye well paced but the thick accents of the bass and alto (unnamed) are uncomfortable. There is vitality in the playing and singing. And he shall purify and Unto Us a child is born are excellently done. The unfamiliarity of the English language foxes the choir in In we like sheep and The Lord Gave the Word.


Violin Concerto played by Igor Klimov, Philharmonica SO/Igor Ivanenko. A really characterful performance with Klimov reinventing the solo part. He infuses the work with the feeling of much later works such as the Sibelius Concerto and Humoresques and the Tchaikovsky. It seems a spiritually more grown up work in Klimov's hands.


Rococo Variations. Dmitry Ratushin (cello), Philharmonica SO/Ivanenko. Ratushin captured in superb sound reaching out to listeners so that the listener could almost reach out and touch the cello. Perhaps a mite too closely miked. Four tracks. I loved it.


Double Violin Concerto. Back to Georgia and the strong SIMI Orchestra under Tsatishvili. A burly approach with muscular nasal tone from soloists Larisa Abakian and Helmut Eilhofer.


Ivanenko and the Philharmonica SO. No holds barred big band Strauss. Tending to the cumbersome. Delicious Voices of Spring with great oompah work from the brass section. Rarities: Viennese Bonbons and Parting with St Petersburg. The latter introduced by a long cello solo. Some crepuscular Hungarian flavour here. Not essential Strauss but pleasing all the same.


Piano Concerto 4. Tea Kalandadze (piano), Piano Concerto 5 Vakhtang Badrishvili (piano). SIMI Orchestra and Tsatishvili again. Badrishvili we know from the Grieg Concerto. Kalandadze is new. Badrishvili is miked hideously closely with forbidding presence and the orchestra dwarfed. The result can fairly be compared with a super-Heifetz balance. Neither interpretation is at all specially remarkable. The sort of outing you might expect to hear on a lunchtime BBC Radio 3 orchestral concert.


all with the Georgian SIMI Festival orchestra. 1812 and the Symphony are conducted by a conductor from whom we rapidly come to expect good things - Tsatishvili. Anzor Kinkladze we know from the rather ho-hum Swan Lake excerpts. He directs the SIMI orchestra in Marche Slave - strong on dark cloud-hung sentiment. The march is one of those works in which Tchaikovsky skidded close to the Kouchka and nationalism. The balance is not ideal on 1812 which comes out rather muddy and sub fusc. The strings play up a storm but (à la Golovanov - almost!) but are fatally undermined by the dull sound. The Symphony is much better - with some splenetic playing at the impetuous peaks of the first movement. Brilliant, gritty, exciting, sulphurous playing in the heartless march then gallops its way through the penultimate movement of the Pathétique. A soulful finale with a chamber music attention to lines and texture.


St Petersburg Theatre Chorus and Festivsal SDO/Kirill Gluzdov. Joan of Arc overture - bombastic, stormy and melodramatic - very nicely done as, in their different ways, are the overtures to Vespri Siciliani and the Beethovenian Forza (with its lovely secondary theme now so entrapped in the films Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources). MacBeth (choruses of the Scottish fugitives, of the witches of the murderers) suitably dark, whispered and covert - full of tension. Soldiers Chorus from Rigoletto - has a most impressive machiavellian bass who is not identified but is presumably a principal from the choir. The Brindisi from Traviata shows the orchestra's violins to be less than silky. This blemish surfaces from time to time throughout the disc - as in the Forza overture at 2.20. The Brindisi baritone is unidentified. His Italian sounds more natural than the Latvians' English in Messiah. A great sense of red-blooded theatre on display here.

MOZART Symphonies 40 and 41.

No. 40 with Kinkladze and the Georgian SIMI Chamber Orchestra. Stormy, heavy of tread and unpolished ensemble. Ivanenko's (Philharmonica) Jupiter is again big band stuff. Both give a fair enough impression of the music but are not special and the violins tend to sound nasal when they need to project some Philadelphian luxury. A nice brace of marches from Vadim Kudriavtsev and the Muse Orchestra at St Petersburg. Some cheeky fifing from the flute.


Symphony No. 5 and the Rosamunde music from St Petersburg/Vitas Antonavichius. The Fifth is too quick for its own good tending to sound remorseless at this rate. Things go much better in Rosamunde. The Unfinished returns us to the hands of Kinkladze and the SIMI orchestra. This goes pretty well and Kinkladze shows rewarding attention to quiet quiets and contrasts with the more obstreperous and demonstrative music. If he has a fault here it is to take the music at a funereal pace. I would have liked to hear Tsatishvili in this work.



You could do worse than choose this economical set as a classical starter. This is a bran tub as such bargain bundles tend to be. The packaging is gimmicky and probably will not last long. The disc stems are made of polystyrene or similar. There are no notes. However these discs cost you only about 1.30 each or only about 95p each if you can find the set at the price I was quoted (i.e. 14.99). In return you will be introduced to Vladimirov's fiery Seasons, Klimov's rather knowing and hothouse Bruch, Ratushin's very fine Rococo Variations, Tsatishvili's steel and hammerhead Brahms 1 and Tchaikovsky 6 and Nutcracker excerpts. The theatrical Verdi excerpts are also excellent.

Rob Barnett


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