Putting my time where my mouth is I decided that I
should review this set. I confess to having sampled rather than played
every disc all the way through.
This is bargain basement material and I am not quite
sure where you will see this set. It can be ordered direct from Prism
(details below) but will it ever appear in Tower or HMV? I doubt it.
I have always wanted the site to give greater coverage
to the bargain labels and to avoid the predictable sniffiness of those
critics who have already made up their minds about a performance from
seeing the price, packaging and some obscure (often Eastern European)
This set comes attractively packaged in a sleeve the
size of an old LP cover. The CDs sit in slit pockets with a polystyrene
click stem holding them reasonably firmly. The packaging is no great
shakes but it will have to do. There are no notes whatsoever. The artists
are named but that's about it.
The discs are made in Israel. I noted that their numbers
are not consecutive. Are there others out there? Is this part of a joint
Georgian-Lithuanian venture to create a bargain price library of the
Philharmonica SO/Igor Ivanenko
Virile big band playing and voluptuous tone from Peter
Vladimirov (violin). Romanticised and rather enjoyable and the same
can be said of the oboe, bassoon and recorder contributions from Stanislav
Lugovoi, Roman Lebedev and Andrei Subbotin respectively. Sample the
warm whirlwinds of summer in track 6. Non-PC performances and none the
worse for that. Harpsichord continuo used. Oddly wheezy sounding recorder
in this cheeky little concerto.
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (St Petersburg CO/Viacheslav
Suvorov) a bassy recording with brilliant strings. Rather tremulous
thin-toned strings in the second movement but plenty of feeling. Nice
resistance-less flightiness in the finale. Very pleasant. Clarinet
Concerto (Grigori Riumin (cl) / St Petersburg CO Muse / Leonid Malyshev).
More big band style. A fair account of the work with a particularly
cheeky and pert finale but not outstanding. Flute Concerto (Valgis
Marcinkiavichius (fl) / Baltic Festival Orch / Vitas Antonavichius).
This is visited with a specially colossal sound which the cognoscenti
will find at odds with the intimate character of the flute. The Lithuanian
strings lack the ample tone of their St Petersburg counterparts.
Symphony No. 9: (Philharmonica SO/Igor Ivanenko).
Scrappy and disengaged at first but soon pulls itself together. Third
movement very nicely done. Last movement seems rather too accented to
the point of losing articulation. Why only five of the Slavonic Dances?
Done with charm undermined in the noisier first dance by the impression
of a massive orchestra rather too heavy on its feet - too much pudding
before the dance. Good attack in the third dance.
Piano Concerto (Vakhtang Badrishvili (piano) / Georgian
SIMI Festival Orch / Nodar Tsatishvili). Same orchestra and conductor
for the Gynt suites. Tender work from conductor and orchestra
in the concerto. Overly accented and pointful approach by Badrishvili.
Good performances of the Gynt music. You could do much worse. Perhaps
roughnesses of execution in the delicate third movement of the first
suite. Tsatishvili is outstandingly calm and tender in the final section
of the second suite.
Baltic Festival Orch/Yong Lee. Roughness of
execution and ensemble mar the Hebrides overture and the Symphony.
Treble emphasis on the concerto recording of the Philharmonica SO/Ivanenko
with soloist Vadim Storozhuk the only cloud on this particular horizon.
Otherwise a nice performance with the same big hall sound as the Vivaldi.
Symphony No. 9. Georgian SIMI Festival Orch, SIMI
Festival Choir? Georgy Chavchavadse / Nodar Tsatishvili. Caramelised
atmosphere in the third movement. Lovely atmosphere in the finale but
generally unkempt. Vocal quartet: Nugzar Abashidze (bass) Timur Dvali
(ten); Irina Tikhmirova (alto); Lija Abdrashvili (sop) - men good;
women variable. Enjoyable performance with whopping acres of tone and
tempest from the choir.
TCHAIKOVSKY ballet music.
15 movements from Swan Lake; 10 from Nutcracker.
Nice rustic pacing (2); raucous (4, 11); haunting with lovely harp balance
(6, 10); reedy young cygnets (8). So-so rather than good. Nutcracker:
I loved the trumpet in 17; clickety-clackety bassoon keys (19); Lovely
playing in Nutcracker. A shame we could not have had a collection drawn
entirely from that ballet. The Georgian SIMI orchestra is not to be
sniffed at. They perhaps work more easefully with Tsatishvili (Nutcracker)
than with Nazoe Kinkladze. Imaginative music making seeming more fluent
Clod-hopping overture from St Petersburg Festival
Orchestra and Leonid Malyshev (not recommendable). The First
Symphony brings us to Tsatishvili again. This is strong and highly
romantic. Idiomatic playing with the pacing well judged notably in the
third movement. A tendency towards garbled textures in the bass heavy
shadows of the first and last movements. Slavonic wobble in the famous
horn solo (3.23) - a demerit. Plenty of depth and impact and a real
head of steam in the last five minutes. A pretty good version from which
to get to know the symphony. Julia Tretiakova leads us reliably
through the Op.119 pieces. More might have been secured with greater
attention to variety of dynamics.
HANDEL Messiah excerpts. Baltic Chamber Orchestra;
Riga Festival Choir, cond Rimantas Vivalias. About an hour's worth.
Soloists not named. Comfort Ye well paced but the thick accents
of the bass and alto (unnamed) are uncomfortable. There is vitality
in the playing and singing. And he shall purify and Unto Us
a child is born are excellently done. The unfamiliarity of the English
language foxes the choir in In we like sheep and The Lord
Gave the Word.
Violin Concerto played by Igor Klimov, Philharmonica
SO/Igor Ivanenko. A really characterful performance with Klimov
reinventing the solo part. He infuses the work with the feeling of much
later works such as the Sibelius Concerto and Humoresques and the Tchaikovsky.
It seems a spiritually more grown up work in Klimov's hands.
Rococo Variations. Dmitry Ratushin (cello), Philharmonica
SO/Ivanenko. Ratushin captured in superb sound reaching out to listeners
so that the listener could almost reach out and touch the cello. Perhaps
a mite too closely miked. Four tracks. I loved it.
Double Violin Concerto. Back to Georgia and the
strong SIMI Orchestra under Tsatishvili. A burly approach with muscular
nasal tone from soloists Larisa Abakian and Helmut Eilhofer.
Ivanenko and the Philharmonica SO. No holds
barred big band Strauss. Tending to the cumbersome. Delicious Voices
of Spring with great oompah work from the brass section. Rarities:
Viennese Bonbons and Parting with St Petersburg. The latter
introduced by a long cello solo. Some crepuscular Hungarian flavour
here. Not essential Strauss but pleasing all the same.
Piano Concerto 4. Tea Kalandadze (piano), Piano
Concerto 5 Vakhtang Badrishvili (piano). SIMI Orchestra and Tsatishvili
again. Badrishvili we know from the Grieg Concerto. Kalandadze is
new. Badrishvili is miked hideously closely with forbidding presence
and the orchestra dwarfed. The result can fairly be compared with a
super-Heifetz balance. Neither interpretation is at all specially remarkable.
The sort of outing you might expect to hear on a lunchtime BBC Radio
3 orchestral concert.
all with the Georgian SIMI Festival orchestra. 1812
and the Symphony are conducted by a conductor from whom we rapidly
come to expect good things - Tsatishvili. Anzor Kinkladze we
know from the rather ho-hum Swan Lake excerpts. He directs the
SIMI orchestra in Marche Slave - strong on dark cloud-hung sentiment.
The march is one of those works in which Tchaikovsky skidded close to
the Kouchka and nationalism. The balance is not ideal on 1812 which
comes out rather muddy and sub fusc. The strings play up a storm but
(à la Golovanov - almost!) but are fatally undermined by the
dull sound. The Symphony is much better - with some splenetic playing
at the impetuous peaks of the first movement. Brilliant, gritty, exciting,
sulphurous playing in the heartless march then gallops its way through
the penultimate movement of the Pathétique. A soulful finale
with a chamber music attention to lines and texture.
St Petersburg Theatre Chorus and Festivsal SDO/Kirill
Gluzdov. Joan of Arc overture - bombastic, stormy and melodramatic
- very nicely done as, in their different ways, are the overtures to
Vespri Siciliani and the Beethovenian Forza (with its
lovely secondary theme now so entrapped in the films Jean de Florette
and Manon des Sources). MacBeth (choruses of the Scottish
fugitives, of the witches of the murderers) suitably dark, whispered
and covert - full of tension. Soldiers Chorus from Rigoletto
- has a most impressive machiavellian bass who is not identified
but is presumably a principal from the choir. The Brindisi from
Traviata shows the orchestra's violins to be less than silky.
This blemish surfaces from time to time throughout the disc - as in
the Forza overture at 2.20. The Brindisi baritone is unidentified.
His Italian sounds more natural than the Latvians' English in Messiah.
A great sense of red-blooded theatre on display here.
MOZART Symphonies 40 and 41.
No. 40 with Kinkladze and the Georgian SIMI Chamber
Orchestra. Stormy, heavy of tread and unpolished ensemble. Ivanenko's
(Philharmonica) Jupiter is again big band stuff. Both give a fair
enough impression of the music but are not special and the violins tend
to sound nasal when they need to project some Philadelphian luxury.
A nice brace of marches from Vadim Kudriavtsev and the Muse Orchestra
at St Petersburg. Some cheeky fifing from the flute.
Symphony No. 5 and the Rosamunde music from St Petersburg/Vitas
Antonavichius. The Fifth is too quick for its own good tending to
sound remorseless at this rate. Things go much better in Rosamunde.
The Unfinished returns us to the hands of Kinkladze
and the SIMI orchestra. This goes pretty well and Kinkladze shows
rewarding attention to quiet quiets and contrasts with the more obstreperous
and demonstrative music. If he has a fault here it is to take the music
at a funereal pace. I would have liked to hear Tsatishvili in this work.
You could do worse than choose this economical set
as a classical starter. This is a bran tub as such bargain bundles tend
to be. The packaging is gimmicky and probably will not last long. The
disc stems are made of polystyrene or similar. There are no notes. However
these discs cost you only about £1.30 each or only about 95p each if
you can find the set at the price I was quoted (i.e. £14.99). In return
you will be introduced to Vladimirov's fiery Seasons, Klimov's
rather knowing and hothouse Bruch, Ratushin's very fine Rococo Variations,
Tsatishvili's steel and hammerhead Brahms 1 and Tchaikovsky 6 and Nutcracker
excerpts. The theatrical Verdi excerpts are also excellent.