This is the first disc that I have heard in the
CDK series. According to the limited material supplied with this
disc, CDK are re-issuing old Melodiya recordings at mid-price.
The current releases include the Rococo Variations and Souvenir
de Florence (Leningrad PO/Rozhdestvensky); Grieg Piano
Works (Pletnev); Brahms and Dvořák Violin Concertos (Oistrakh/Kondrashin).
All these performances are well known to collectors of this repertoire.
The current disc contains extended suites from
The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. They are played by
the USSR Radio SO, in the days before Perestroika. The outfit
also pre-dated major changes in the orchestral infrastructure
up of Russia – i.e. before many of the members of this orchestra
were poached to form Pletnev’s Russian National Orchestra.
The disc is something of a period piece. The
orchestra has a gorgeous string section, somewhat blaring brass
and raw woodwinds. The original Melodiya recordings were also
extremely exciting and this quality is here in abundance.
Svetlanov is a natural in this repertoire and
his experience shines through very clearly. His long association
with his orchestra provided English audiences with thrilling concerts
when they appeared sporadically outside the USSR. I can predict
that some collectors will be overjoyed at the reappearance of
these ballet suites.
CDK has provided us with suites, which are a
little more extended than usual. For example The Nutcracker
suite contains the Pas de Deux from Act 2 as a separate
piece. Strangely it is inserted before the end of the Danses
caractéristiques and the start of the Waltz of the
Flowers. The suite is beautifully played, and whilst not removing
the DG recording with the Berlin Philharmonic and Rostropovich,
the current issue is more ‘ethnic’, and will please many collectors.
The suite from Swan Lake is more the normal
suite as specified by the composer. It is impossible to fault
the performances except for a very unsteady harp in the Rose Adagio,
where the top note of the glissando is not reached at all. This
causes a shock when you are used to other versions. This really
should have been retaken as it is so exposed.
Apart from this, I must say that I enjoyed this
issue immensely and its appearance is the cause for rejoicing,
particularly amongst those of us who enjoy these classic Russian
Is there any drawback at all? Well, yes. For
some reason the whole disc only comes with two tracks, one for
Swan Lake, and the other for The Nutcracker, although
the back cover leads us to expect that each item of each suite
is separately banded. It could be that the intermediate tracks
are indexed, rather than separately tracked, but my player, in
common with many other current players, lacks the facility to
index through a disc. I would implore CDK to adopt tracking rather
than indexing, if indeed that is what has been done.
What we need now is more of these recordings
for our pleasure. How about Shostakovich’s The Execution of
Stepan Razin Op.119 with Kondrashin. That really would be