One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here
 

 

International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger

CD REVIEW



Some items
to consider

  • Henze Kammermusik 1958
  • Mozart Flute Quartets
  • Schubert complete piano works
  • Sammartini: 6 Concerti grossi
  • Henze Kammermusik 1958
 
Tudor



CD and Blue-ray Audio


CD and Blue-ray Audio


CPE Bach Cantatas
a revelation


Biber: Sacred Choral Works
Don't miss it


Jonathan Dove


Tommie Haglund
Unique and Powerful music


Organ Fireworks


Highly Entertaining


A triumphant performance


Bruckner Symphony 4
One of the finest I have heard


A most joy-inducing recording


A winning partnership


A Lohengrin to treasure.

 


 

 

Alexander BORODIN (1833-1887)
In the Steppes of Central Asia (1880) [7:02]
Symphony No.1 in E flat major (1862-1867) [35:01]
Symphony No.2 in B minor (1869-1876) [26:57]*
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy
rec. London, May 1991*, April-May 1992. DDD
DECCA LONDON 436 651-2 [69:35] 

Vladimir Ashkenazy made some excellent recordings during the 1990s.  Many slipped into the deletion lists as his record label, Decca, began to suffer in the well-documented recording crises that beset the "major" labels.  Arkiv has given some of these recordings a new lease of life through its "on demand" high quality CD-R initiative.  Among them is this disc of Borodin, which Ashkenazy recorded towards the end of his time as Music Director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Borodin's symphonies had a long gestation, a result of Borodin's hectic work as a trail-blazing scientist and, in his spare time, a campaigner for women's rights.  He lived to complete two symphonies; the third was completed and orchestrated by Glazunov after Borodin's death.  We must be grateful for what we have, though, as of all of the Mighty Handful, Borodin had an ear for melody that not even Rimsky-Korsakov could match.

Ashkenazy's accounts of Borodin's two completed symphonies are not high octane, blood and thunder accounts.  For that approach, look to Svetlanov or Tjeknavorian.  Ashkenazy's approach is gentler, though still idiomatic, and offers an alternative interpretative point of view that is well worth hearing.

The first symphony is characterised by an almost Mendelssohnian lightness under Ashkenazy's baton.  Tempi are danceable.  Ashkenazy caresses the flowing melodies of the first movement and the third movement andante, but allows his orchestra to hit accents with impact.  The chattering winds and strings in the scherzo are lovely - I was reminded here of the scherzo from Tchaikovsky's third suite for orchestra.  The final allegro molto vivo is smiling and sprightly, shooting out sparks rather than blazing like a bonfire. 

The second symphony opens with dark colours but does not explode as it does in some accounts.  The brighter major key passages jostle with darker minor interjections from snarling strings and brass.  The scherzo, once past its eye-widening opening chord, is light and airy but not without impact.  The opening of the andante is gorgeous, with the principle French horn intoning the long solo that opens the movement with great sensitivity.  Colours darken as the music builds, though.  The finale has an exciting almost wild west cut and thrust.  The voltage could be higher, but this rendition remains charming, highlighting the tuneful inventiveness of Borodin's writing.  Not exhilarating, then, but delightful. 

In an intelligent stroke of programming, the two symphonies are introduced, and not followed, by Borodin's gorgeous tone poem, In the Steppes of Central Asia.  Ashkenazy's account is gently evocative, but he maintains a flowing tempo and resists the temptation to wallow. 

I have not heard much from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in recent years, but certainly in the early to mid 1990s they remained an excellent ensemble.  Under Ashkenazy's baton, they approach this music with a full romantic sweep, clear textures and excellent ensemble.  There is some charming solo work from the woodwinds, in the finale of the second symphony for example or the chattering scherzos of both, and crisp articulation from all concerned.  The strings, though not opulent, have warmth and bloom and the brass are imposing without being brash. 

Sonically, this disc offers a very satisfying experience, with the warm, clear and well balanced sound. 

If you appreciate the picturesque and lyrical qualities of Borodin's music, then this disc is for you.

Tim Perry
 

 

 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and get a free CD

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical



Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger
 

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.