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Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
DISC ONE [77.06]
Symphony No. 1, op. 1 in E minor
Symphony No. 2 'Antar', Op. 9
Capriccio espagnol, Op. 34
DISC TWO [79:38]
Symphony No. 3, op. 32 in C major - 1886 version
Russian Easter Festival, Op. 36 Overture
Sadko, Op. 5
Piano Concerto, in C sharp minor, Opus 30
Geoffrey Tozer (piano)
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitri Kitajenko
Rec - Grieghallen, Bergen; 17-20 Feb 1993 (Symphony 1 & 2, Capriccio) and 22-25
May 1993 (Antar, Russian Easter, Sadko, Piano Conc).
CHANDOS Collect CHAN 6613(2)

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This two-disc set represents good value as it contains all three of the symphonies of Rimsky-Korsakov together with the Piano Concerto and three of his most popular orchestral pieces. Apart from Sheherazade, and perhaps some of the suites from the operas, this represents as much of this composer's works as the average record collector is likely to want. It is presented in the slim-line duo format with an attractive designed cover. There are useful notes by David Nice.

The first symphony is very clearly an early work as the designation Opus1 indicates and despite a later re-write it is very much a student work and lacks the rhythmic vitality and tunefulness of most of his later works. However it is given here as good a performance as I have heard.

'Antar', with its attractive oriental atmosphere, and recurring theme is not so well known as it deserves and is played with considerable élan here. 'Antar' is more accurately described as a symphonic suite rather than as Rimsky-Korsakov's second symphony.

The third symphony, although a mature work, is rather academic in feeling and lacks rhythmic excitement; in this work Svetlanov in his recording with the USSR Academic Symphony Orchestra achieves more feeling especially in the andante although the Olympia recording distorts slightly in the climaxes.

Geoffrey Tozer plays well in the delightful short, one movement, Piano Concerto and achieves a good partnership with the Bergen orchestra. This is a case where the brevity of the work is a disadvantage as it is too short to warrant engaging a soloist for an orchestral concert, and fitting it in with another short concertante piece makes planning a concert much more difficult.

The conductor also achieves lively results with Capriccio Espagnol; however this is very much an orchestral showpiece and comparisons with some famous recordings reinforce the impression that the Bergen Philharmonic is a competent rather than great ensemble.

Similar remarks apply to the Russian Easter Festival Overture where the last drop of exoticism is lacking. Sadko is a work which is seldom played these days and is well executed here.

Chandos have achieved a good clear sound on these recordings but do not attain the demonstration class they have often achieved in other cases.

Arthur Baker.

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