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Mily BALAKIREV (1837-1910)
Grand Fantasia on Russian Folksongs op. 4 (1852) [18:16]
Thirty Songs of the Russian People - alternating original folksong with Balakirev arrangements of each song (full details at end of review) (1866, 1900) [61:12]
Joseph Banowetz (piano)
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra/Konstantin Krimets
Olga Kalugina (sop); Svetlana Nikolayeva (mezzo); Pavel Kolgan (ten); Joseph Banowetz; Alton Chung Ming (piano, four hands)
rec. 13 Sept 2004, Studio 5, Moscow State Broadcasting and Radio House, Moscow (Grande Fantasia); 17-18 July 2006, Mesquite Performing Arts Centre, Dallas, Texas (Balakirev arrs); 23 Nov 2006, Concert Hall, Gnessin Musical College, Moscow (Folksongs). DDD
song summaries, notes in English with German and French translations.
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC0018 [79:28]

 


Glinka is still known, with justice, as the father of Russian music. Before him music in Russia was largely shouldered by imports such as Galuppi, Paisiello, Hassler and Cimarosa.  While building on bel canto styles borrowed from Italy Glinka added a very strong infusion of Russian folksong. This can be heard in the operas A Life for the Tsar and Ruslan and Ludmilla. Balakirev revered Glinka and was fully signed up to his belief that: “The People produce music, composers only arrange it”. He became the core of a group of new wave composers which included Cui, Rimsky, Borodin and Mussorgsky - not a professional musician amongst them although Rimsky attained fully professional standards through his own studies.  In the early 1860s Balakirev made journeys down the Volga and collected and published forty folksongs. In 1900 there was a further set which he arranged and published but this time it comprised songs collected by others. The extended two pianist versions recorded here were in fact published two years earlier in 1898. 

This disc is fully loaded to just a mite short of 80 minutes with an 18 minute work for piano and orchestra and just over an hour of alternated solo-sung folksongs and the same folksong arranged for piano four hands. 

The Grand Fantasia was written by the 14 year old Balakirev. Not surprisingly the influence of bel canto, of Chopin and of Field can be heard.  However amid the pearl and dazzle there are themes and treatments of an unmistakably Russian character  alongside the folksongs Ah, it's not the sun that is eclipsed and Amid the spreading vale. The innocently pleasing effect is similar to that of the Chopin Variations on La cidarem la mano. The work ends in feline understatement. The folksongs, sung unaccompanied and shared between the three singers, are placed before their counterpart Balakirev arrangement. They are sung with earthy resonance by fresh voices without an undue operatic patina. The duet singing by Kalugina and Nikolayeva is especially memorable in Nikita Romanovich (tr.16) and I went into the garden (tr. 46) prompting a quick return to those tracks. The italianate decorative manner found its way into Balakirev's arrangement of Vasily Okulyevic and Birds and Animals but otherwise one can hear Balakirev staying within the confines of the new nationalist language and helping establish its conventions. Listening to some of these unaffected and unadorned folksongs one can only lament that they have not attracted a composer of Canteloube's skills to make of them something for the concert hall. They would need delicate handling to avoid suffocating these blooms with concert-operatic conventions. There were no winds and Rowanberry and Raspberry seem to place us within hailing distance of the puys of the Auvergne. This disc includes some lovely pure singing and world music folk fans need to hear this as well as Balakirev and Russian music enthusiasts. Congratulations to Martin Anderson and his collaborators in Russia for showing us that there are singers in Russia who can sustain a note without undue vibrato. 

Nicholas Walker provides the booklet notes. As is customary with Toccata these are full and detailed. Walker seems to have taken a special interest in Balakirev and subject to the recent take-over of Sanctuary is recording all the Balakirev piano music on ASV. There is also a Danacord CD of Walker playing the Lyapunov sonata. He is planning a Balakirev Festival in 2010 to mark the centenary of the composer's death. 

In summary: Early bel canto Balakirev and folk music sung and played freshly with a adroitly earthy resonance. 

Rob Barnett

DETAILED TRACKLISTING
 
1 Grand Fantasia on Russian Folksongs Op. 4
Mily Balakirev 18:19                   
 
2 No. 1: dukhovnaya ‘Dormition of the Mother of God’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 0:52                   
 
3 No. 1: dukhovnaya ‘Dormition of the Mother of God’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 1:12                   
 
4 No. 2: dukhovnaya ‘Egoriy the Brave’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 1:16                   
 
5 No. 2: dukhovnaya ‘Egoriy the Brave’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 1:12                   
 
6 No. 3: dukhovnaya ‘Lazar’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 0:53                   
 
7 No. 3: dukhovnaya ‘Lazar’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 1:02                   
 
8 No. 4: dukhovnaya ‘The Last Judgement’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 1:32                   
 
9 No. 4: dukhovnaya ‘The Last Judgement’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 0:54                   
 
10 No. 5: dukhovnaya ‘The Book of the Dove’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 0:37                   
 
11 No. 5: dukhovnaya ‘The Book of the Dove’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 1:04                   
 
12 No. 6: bylina ‘The King’s Sons from Krakow’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 1:00                   
 
13 No. 6: bylina ‘The King’s Sons from Krakow’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 1:49                   
 
14 No. 7: bylina ‘Kostruk’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 0:44                   
 
15 No. 7: bylina ‘Kostruk’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 18:10                   
 
16 No. 8: bylina ‘Nikita Romanovich’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 1:02                   
 
17 No. 8: bylina ‘Nikita Romanovich’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 1:57                   
 
18 No. 9: byliny ‘Grisha Otrepyev’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 0:59                   
 
19 No. 9: byliny ‘Grisha Otrepyev’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 1:00                   
 
20 No. 10: bylina ‘Vasiliy Okulyevic’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 0:43                   
 
21 No. 10: bylina ‘Vasiliy Okulyevic’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 0:56                   
 
22 No. 11: bylina ‘The Razvoinik Brothers and their Sister’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 0:54                   
 
23 No. 11: bylina ‘The Razvoinik Brothers and their Sister’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 2:17                   
 
24 No. 12: bylina ‘Birds and Animals’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 0:47                   
 
25 No. 12: bylina ‘Birds and Animals’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 0:23                    
 
26 No. 13: wedding song ‘They said: Fedot-ot doesn’t drink beer…’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 0:45                   
 
27 No. 13: wedding song ‘They said: Fedot-ot doesn’t drink beer…’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 0:49                    
 
28 No. 14: wedding song ‘There were no winds…’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 1:11                   
 
29 No. 14: wedding song ‘There were no winds…’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 0:46                   
 
30 No. 15: wedding song ‘Are you my river little river…’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 2:08                   
 
31 No. 15: wedding song ‘Are you my river little river…’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 0:47                   
 
32 No. 16: wedding song ‘Oh drinking berry…’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 0:47                   
 
33 No. 16: wedding song ‘Oh drinking berry…’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 0:36                   
 
34 No. 17: wedding song ‘Many many by a damp oak tree…’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 0:44                    
 
35 No. 17: wedding song ‘Many many by a damp oak tree…’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 0:59                   
 
36 No. 18: wedding song ‘Mummy wasn’t hoping’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 1:20                   
 
37 No. 18: wedding song ‘Mummy wasn’t hoping’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 2:07                   
 
38 No. 19: wedding song ‘My girlfriends dear girlfriends…’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 1:04                   
 
39 No. 19: wedding song ‘My girlfriends dear girlfriends…’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 0:57                   
 
40 No. 20: wedding song ‘Oh you geese you geese…’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 1:02                   
 
41 No. 20: wedding song ‘Oh you geese you geese…’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 0:38                   
 
42 No. 21: wedding song ‘Grape-harvest’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 1:01                   
 
43 No. 21: wedding song ‘Grape-harvest’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 1:04                   
 
44 No. 22: wedding song ‘There is a tree on a hill’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 0:26                   
 
45 No. 22: wedding song ‘There is a tree on a hill’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 0:55                   
 
46 No. 23: khorovodnaya ‘I went into the garden’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 0:55                   
 
47 No. 23: khorovodnaya ‘I went into the garden’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 0:31                   
 
48 No. 24: khorovodnaya ‘Our wide street’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 0:45                    
 
49 No. 24: khorovodnaya ‘Our wide street’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 0:57                   
 
50 No. 25: khorovodnaya ‘Utushnaya’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 0:24                   
 
51 No. 25: khorovodnaya ‘Utushnaya’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 1:14                   
 
52 No. 26: protyazhnaya ‘Rowanberry and Raspberry’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 1:15                   
 
53 No. 26: protyazhnaya ‘Rowanberry and Raspberry’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 12:15                   
 
54 No. 27: protyazhnaya ‘What a heart’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 1:03                   
 
55 No. 27: protyazhnaya ‘What a heart’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 1:09                   
 
56 No. 28: protyazhnaya ‘It’s enough for you my dear to walk in the field’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 1:09                   
 
57 No. 28: protyazhnaya ‘It’s enough for you my dear to walk in the field’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 1:03                   
 
58 No. 29: protyazhnaya ‘Oh you winter’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 0:43                   
 
59 No. 29: protyazhnaya ‘Oh you winter’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 0:39                   
 
60 No. 30: protyazhnaya ‘She became she became a colonel’s wife’ – folksong
Mily Balakirev 0:53                   
 
61 No. 30: protyazhnaya ‘She became she became a colonel’s wife’ – Balakirev’s arrangement
Mily Balakirev 0:53

 

 


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