Of course there are
more recent Raymondas and better-recorded
Raymondas – though the technical standards
in Moscow in 1961 were by no means wanting.
But Svetlanov gets to heart of things
as well as any conductor since. Armed
with his usual charismatic and biting
vibrancy he accords the score the full
complement of fantasy, refinement, and
Armed with the sweeping
strings and beefy Bolshoi brass, and
with three excellent (named) principals,
this orchestra is a natural for this
score – preferable to the U.S.S.R State.
And Svetlanov doesn’t mess about –Act
I’s Page scene is full of bold
gestures and powerful striving brass.
Listen too the narrative unfolding of
the Countess’s Story and its
winding wind passages, so aptly descriptive
here. The Bolshoi’s trumpet principal
was Oleg Usach and his brassy, hugely
vibrated sound can be heard in the Act
I Dance scene. There’s also a
delightful lilt and lift in the Grand
Waltz and an incremental power in
the Mime Scene – but what sheen
and delicacy in its early stages. Here
as elsewhere details are splendidly
controlled by Svetlanov and there Is
no sense of grandiloquence for its own
sake or the feeling that he and the
orchestra are turning these little movements
into mere orchestral playthings.
Harpist Vera Dulova
imparts some rippling virtuosity, bardic
feel and, not least, romance in the
Prelude and Romanesca. A real
standout is the Entr’acte between
scenes seven and eight where the gravity
and warmth of the writing is crowned
by a shattering climax dominated by
Usach’s blisteringly braying trumpet.
It’s not pretty – but it is exciting.
The Bolshoi’s leader was Sergei Kalinovsky
and his eloquent playing in the Grand
Adagio is suitably memorable. So
too is the way in which Svetlanov brings
out the counter-themes in Scene VIII’s
Coda – vital and fulsome.
Svetlanov’s ear for
rhythmic buoyancy – never gabbled or
over stressed - pays rich dividends
in Act II’s Fourth variation,
the one for Raymonda. And still he seldom
misses a trick – note the wittily phrased
Entrance of the Jugglers and
the intense and exciting Bacchanal.
The floridity of the Arrival of the
Knight and King is resplendent here
and for pompous nobility Svetlanov takes
some beating in Act III’s Entrance
scene. It was a Glazunovian coup,
richly exploited by the conductor here,
to follow it with the touching and delicate
Classical Hungarian Dance.
As these more delicate
and refined moments show, Svetlanov
is alert to the Gallicisms inherent
in the score as indeed he is to the
more grandiloquent Borodin-derived ones
as well. He strikes a fine balance,
literally and figuratively, between
the two. The 1961 sound is certainly
serviceable though it has its raw moments.