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Yuri Temirkanov – Historical Russian Archives
see end of review for details
rec. 1966-83
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 8818 [10 CDs: 670:03]
Experience Classicsonline

Temirkanov enters the ranks of the Brilliant Box Set with this ten CD round up of live performances given between 1962 and 1983. Much is of repertoire long associated with him – though not all is – and some duplicate commercial recordings; Shostakovich most obviously.
This, more so than any other Brilliant set that I’ve heard, contains performances that veer between the splendid and the rather shoddy. It creates for fruitful friction – if one can put it that way – between expectation and realisation. Temirkanov is no stranger to British music so it’s no surprise to hear him in Britten. The Grimes interludes would perhaps have been preferable to the Purcell variations, though maybe they weren’t recorded. We get a sonorous if not always ensemble-perfect performance. The Sibelius Second Symphony is inclined to be eruptive rather than organic and the recording congestion ensures that the lower string sound is inclined to be muddy. There are exciting things here to be sure but also a lack of optimum clarity.
There’s a strong French component to one of the discs. Debussy is represented by two of the three Nocturnes - Fêtes is certainly trenchant – and La Mer and the Petite Suite. La Mer is good in its way but not quite evocative enough whilst the lighter suite finds things altogether more equable, more fluid. The final work on this disc is the Enescu Romanian Rhapsody, which lacks the kind of outrageous cheek that Gauk and Stokowski brought to it. There’s more French music in a Ravel coupling. The Pavane pour un infante defunte is a bit tubby unfortunately but the Rapsodie Espagnole well coloured; the Malagueña responds quite well to Temirkanov’s rhythmic control. It was a surprise for me to encounter Ibert’s Paris. Not everyone responds to the flip wit of it – I’m not sure the Moscow audience gets it - but Temiraknov relishes the corny Charleston and sickly valse, the ominous engines  of Le Paquebot and the circus antics of the Parade Foraine.
There is a brace of Beethoven performances. The overture to Coriolan is respectable whilst the Eighth Symphony gets a solid, rather rough-hewn reading, not especially detailed. The Haydn – No.104 in D major – is robust. I’m not sure if Temirkanov feels that there is proto-Schubertian legato in the finale, but it sounds like it.
There’s a performance of Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony, given three months before the Soviet tanks drove into Prague. As a performance it veers between ballsy and overheated; rubati are often excessive, and the typical Russian brass blare adds its own strident gloss. Not a performance evincing much finesse it has to be said. That’s a positive virtue when we get to Khachaturian, whose Second Symphony is given an intense and gripping workout by Temirkanov. The Armenian tread of the Dies Irae flames in the slow movement and the finale is judiciously balanced between raucous and reflective. This is a case of a conductor meeting a work head-on in full control and in his element. The Scriabin doesn’t operate on quite such a commanding level but you’ll find the first trumpet once again braying orgiastically and the reading is overall dramatic and persuasive.
Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony is subject to cuts but it’s a performance that readily, indeed avidly, reveals the conductor’s eruptive emotional strengths. By turns grandiose, lachrymose, capricious, tensile, anguished and luxurious it also offers up some brazen, raucous moments too. He doesn’t capture, for me, Svetlanov’s all-conquering drama but the sense of identification is nevertheless palpable. There’s a hiccup at the start of Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony but things get better quickly. The excerpts from Romeo and Juliet are richly characterised, the suite from Lieutenant Kije perhaps even more so. Tchaikovsky is home territory of course; the Pathetique is serious, sometimes imprecise but always symphonically cogent whilst Romeo and Juliet is acutely judged structurally and emotively generous.
There is good evidence of Temirkanov’s promotion of Shchedrin. The Suite from the opera Not Love Alone contains some brilliantly conceived rainfall, tremendous violence in the Night Meeting scene and an eerie Quadrille. All these moments bring out the best in the conductor – his ear for colour, for balance, for the eruptively macabre and satiric find their mark in a score such as this. Chimes, the other Shchedrin work is a terse, brittle, percussive affair associated on disc with Svetlanov.
Temirkanov is always to be taken seriously as a Shostakovich conductor. Tempo-wise, and in some other ways as well, he tends to cleave quite close to the Kondrashin model in the First symphony. In the Fifth it’s a different story. Temirkanov is steadier in the opening Moderato by quite some distance, tauter in the Largo and slightly broader in the finale. There’s also the Thirteenth Symphony with bass Georgy Seleznev, a recording made in June 1983. Once again Temirkanov prefers a more expansive opening movement but his propensity toward volatility and toward extremes-within-limits ensures that he grafts the music with strong character. He’s more volatile than Kondrashin in the second movement and hammers things out more violently These are characterful readings, the products of much thought and intelligence.
The broadcast performances obviously vary over the years, though even at their most muddy they’re still very serviceable. Variably successful performances but much-improved Brilliant notes.
Jonathan Woolf

Track and recording details
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Romeo and Juliet, Fantasy Overture after Shakespeare (1880 version) [20:38]
Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op.74 "Pathétique" (1893) [45:28]
Kirov Theatre Orchestra, recorded live June 1983
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Symphony No. 1 in F minor Op. 10 (1924-25) [31:21]
Symphony No. 5 in D minor Op. 47 (1937) [45:08]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra, recorded live December 1966 (No.1) and June 1981 (No.5)
Symphony No. 13 in B flat minor, for bass, chorus & orchestra
Op. 113 "Babi-Yar" (1962) [55:05]
Georgy Seleznev (bass)/State Academy Symphony Orchestra of USSR, recorded live June 1983 
Rodion SHCHEDRIN (b. 1932)
" Chimes", Concerto for Orchestra No. 2 (1967) [9:51]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra, recorded live February 1976
Suite from the Opera "Not Love Alone" (1964) [26:38]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra, recorded live May 1980
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Symphony No. 1 in D major Op. 25 "Classical Symphony" (1916-17) [12:58]
Romeo and Juliet - excerpts from the Suite (1936) [15:35]
Lieutenant Kije, suite (1934) [18:45]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra, recorded live June 1981 (No.1) and July 1980 (Romeo, Kije)
Symphony No. 2 in E minor "Bell" (1943 rev 1944) [49:35]
State Academy Symphony Orchestra of USSR, recorded live May 1970
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Poème de l'Extase (1905-08) [19:26]
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, recorded live May 1970
Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Symphony No. 2 in E minor Op. 27  (1906-07) [47:19]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra, recorded April 1977
Jacques IBERT (1890-1962)
Paris, Suite Symphonique pour orchestre (1932) [12:59]
State Academy Symphony Orchestra of USSR, recorded July 1980
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 8 in F major Op. 93 (1812-13) [24:19]
Overture: Coriolan Op. 62 (1807) [8:12]
State Academy Symphony Orchestra of USSR, recorded live January 1969 (No.8) and February 1982 (Coriolan)
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Overture: Il Barbiere di Siviglia (1816) [7:48]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra, recorded live November 1968
Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Symphony No. 104 in D major "London" (1795) [26:11]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra, recorded live November 1968
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Symphony No. 9 in E minor Op. 95 "From the New World" (1892-93) [39:21]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra, recorded May 1968
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Pavane  pour un infante défunte (1899) [7:19]
Rapsodie Espagnole (1907-08) [16:12]
State Academy Symphony Orchestra of USSR, recorded June 1975
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Symphony No. 2 in D major Op. 43 (1901-02) [45:31]
State Academy Symphony Orchestra of USSR, recorded live November 1975
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (Variations & Fugue on a theme by Purcell) (1945-46) [16:21]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra, recorded live March 1967
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Nuages (from Three Nocturnes) (1897-99) [7:04]
Fêtes (from Three Nocturnes) (1897-99) [6:26]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra, recorded live May 1980
La Mer, Three Symphonic Sketches (1903-05)  [24:11]
State Academy Symphony Orchestra of USSR, recorded live June 1976
Petite Suite (1886-89 orchestrated Paul-Henri Busser (1907) [15:21]
State Academy Symphony Orchestra of USSR, recorded live June 1976
George ENESCU (1881-1955)
Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 in A major Op. 11 (1901) [11:16]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra, recorded live May 1968
Yuri Temirkanov
CD timings: 66:07 + 76:37 + 64:56 + 75:29 +69:07 + 60:25 + 66:45 + 62:51 + 61:01 + 66:45


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