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Incidental Music to The Maid of Pskov
Symphonic Suite: Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh
Fairy Tale (Szazka), op 29

Fantasia on Serbian Themes, op 6
Moscow Symphony Orchestra
Igor Golovchin
Recordings made in June 1996
Naxos 8.553513 [72:40]

This disc comes as a welcome reminder that Rimsky-Korsakov wrote a good deal of orchestral music which is as colourful and exciting as Capriccio Espagnol or Sheherazade, yet is heard far less frequently as these two old repertory warhorses.

The Maid of Pskov (also known as Ivan the Terrible) occupied the composer off and on for over 25 years. The first version of the opera was staged in 1871. A revised version was completed in 1877 but never staged. After various other transformations the complete opera was not performed until 1901. It is from 1877 version that Rimsky-Korsakov drew this incidental music for a performance of the original play in 1882: it consists of an overture to the Prologue and a mood-setting entr'acte to each of the play's four acts.

The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh was completed three years before the composer's death. From the opera, Rimsky-Korsakov drew the four pieces which comprise the symphonic suite: Prelude: A Hymn to Nature; Wedding Procession (interesting to compare this with the similarly entitled piece from Le Coq d'Or); Tatar Invasion and Battle of Kerzhenets; and Death of Fevroniya and Apotheosis of the Invisible City. All heady stuff!

The Fairy Tale and brief Fantasia on Serbian Themes complete an attractive disc. Igor Golovchin leads the Moscow Symphony Orchestra in performances which fully exploit the drama and passion of this music, while also securing refined and subtle colouring in appropriate places. The sound quality is excellent (though some may not care for the characteristically fruity tone of horns and trombones).

Adrian Smith



A further review by Terry Barfoot

The extreme popularity of Scheherazade eclipses the full and proper recognition of Rimsky-Korsakov's achievement, as this enterprising disc readily reveals. So at the bargain Naxos price it fights for a good cause.

Any listener who wants to hear the best of Rimsky in unknown repertoire, need look no further than the orchestral suite from his penultimate opera, The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh. Richly colourful orchestration, beautiful and memorable tunes, lively and exciting rhythms, can be found in abundance; it is no surprise that this piece is the jewel in the crown of this Naxos disc. The performance is good, too, though the Moscow Symphony Orchestra don't sound as vibrant and richly committed as the best Russian ensembles; nor do they sound particularly Russian. The recording is unfussy and truthful, but not spectacular, which in this music it could be.

The other items on the disc are also appealing. The Suite from The Maid of Pskov (also known as Ivan the Terrible) confirms Rimsky's operatic credentials, while the purely orchestral items - the Fairy Tale and the early Fantasia on Serbian Themes - are skilfully and colourfully written for the orchestra, and contain an abundance of interesting musical material.

This disc is ideal for anyone who has enjoyed Scheherazade and wants to hear more music by Rimsky-Korsakov. It will not disappoint, since it contains excellent music in good performances, well recorded, and all at a bargain price.

Terry Barfoot

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