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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

 

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Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Dubinushka [4.44]
Suite from The Golden Cockerel (compiled Glazunov and Steinberg): Tsar Dodon at his Palace; Tsar Dodon on the March; Tsar Dodon at Queen Shemakha's palace; Dodon's wedding and unhappy end. (1907) [30.01]
Suite from Snow Maiden: Bird's Dance; Tsar Berendei's Procession; Dance (1881) [8.27]
Two Pieces from Pan Voyevoda: Nocturne; Polonaise (1903) [10.48]
Two Pieces from Maid of Pskov: In the woods; Tsar's Hunt and Storm (1871) [7.58]
Russian Easter Festival Overture (1888) [14.18]
USSR Symphony Orchestra
Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra
conductor Evgeni Svetlanov
rec. 1971, 1985, ADD/DDD
REGIS RRC 1145 [76.54]

I am very pleased with Regis and so I suspect are most collectors. Their connections with Vox, Unicorn, Collins and Russian sources have produced a catalogue that offers rewards regardless of the emphasis of your musical interests.

Not a great deal to say about this collection except to comment on its generosity and dazzlingly lit, sumptuous yet athletic approach. Svetlanov takes the slow music at very broad tempi but never short-changes you with a pedestrian approach. The music is iridescent with character whether fairy tale fantasy or as in The Golden Cockerel, a sardonic Prokofiev-like vein as in The Love of Three Oranges. Speaking of the Cockerel, this reading is slightly more subtle than the plush deep-pile of Ormandy's recording with the Philadelphia on Sony Essential Classics. James Murray in his notes mentions Stravinsky's debt to Rimsky (the dedicatee of Igor's First Symphony) in The Firebird. However the atmosphere is even closer in the slightly caustic writing of Le Rossignol.

The digital clarity of Dubinushka and Cockerel contrasts with the brightness, warmth and 'surface' of the analogue Snow Maiden and Voyevoda tracks. Dance has quite a bit of Borodin about it, while Nocturne and Bird's Dance are luxuriant and Tchaikovskian (one can see where Ketèlbey was coming from in the former). After these analogue 'badlands' come the digital transparency and fancy-filled Pskov extracts. Rimsky's predilection for vainglorious and faintly ridiculous pomp reminds us of the Bax's less glorious moments - as in the Coronation March and even Cortège and Rosc-Catha. However Bax, whose weakness for Slav colour is well recognised, is pre-echoed in the one non-theatrical track here. This is the 1888 Overture (written in the same year as the Capriccio and Sheherazade) which stands head and shoulders above the other works here in its concentration, motivic conviction and cohesion. Only the highly inventive Cockerel movements stand at all close to the overture in quality. Whether in swooning orientalism or darting lively soloistic figures Svetlanov stands high in the Overture stakes alongside the technicolor Stokowski and the virtuoso Ormandy.

The English-only notes give just enough of a flavour of the plot of each opera Melodiya productions of which have appeared in full on the Relief and Aura labels.

If you are in the market for a selection of the theatre music this is an unbeatable anthology stiffened by the Overture.

Rob Barnett



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