> Alexander Borodin - Symphonies No. 2 & 3 [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- July2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Alexander BORODIN (1833-1878)
Prince Igor - Overture
Prince Igor - Polovtsian Dances

Symphony No. 2
Symphony No. 3
LSO and LS Chorus/Georg Solti (Prince Igor); LSO/Jean Martinon (2); L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Ernest Ansermet (3)
rec 1966 (Igor); 1961 (2); 1955 (3) ADD
DECCA ELOQUENCE 467 482-2 [65.38]


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It makes a change for this reviewer to return to a non-Australian Eloquence disc. This one couples the most popular Borodin pieces in performances garnered from the greyer corners of the Decca catalogue.

These are analogue recordings carrying intrinsically very fine sound. Hiss is apparent though not a real distraction. Everything apart perhaps from the 1955 Third Symphony is in stereo.

The LSO have the field to themselves except in the Ansermet Third Symphony. Solti's Prince Igor Overture is a vehicle for extremes with some furious tempi; ultimately rather heartless, I thought. I have heard those antiphonal brass calls that summon us out of the Slav mists done with greater excitement. The Polovtsian Dances are memorable for some world class woodwind work, emphatic brass, shadily focused choral singing, demonstration bass drum thwacks, vivid pizzicati (08.07) and whirlwind impact. An aptly thunderous and breathless end to the disc.

The Second Symphony has Martinon at the helm in a cracking recording and performance made over forty years ago. This goes with a restless attack, a stomp that would crack paving slabs and a riotous swing in both the outer allegros. Greater control is evinced than in the Solti overture. Decca cradle the chittering woodwind in close balance (try 3.33 of the Scherzo). In the Andante Martinon takes his time creating a still small voice in a time of peace. A passing thought - did Vaughan Williams get some of his ideas for The Wasps overture from the finale of this symphony?

Perversely perhaps, I have always rated the Third Symphony highly ever since hearing that old Philips Universo LP of Russian rarities - LPO conducted by David Lloyd-Jones. Ansermet and his accustomed orchestra seem to take things at a rather arthritic pulse. Things pick up in the silvery flickering of the Scherzo.

Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov revised or completed and orchestrated the Overture and the Second Symphony. Glazunov alone completed and orchestrated the Third Symphony.

No notes.

A decent collection - Solti furious and headlong, Ansermet so-so and Martinon showing what a clean pair of heels to the celebrity opposition. There are good performances in the catalogue from Andrew Davis and the Toronto SO on SONY and there is a fine and highly recommendable twofer on Decca. I hanker for a reissue of the complete orchestra works on RCA-BMG with Loris Tjeknavorian conducting the National Philharmonic. This ultra-bargain price CD has plenty going for it and is a good inexpensive introduction to the composer.

Rob Barnett

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