Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

BARGAIN OF THE MONTH

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Nicolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Russian Easter Festival Overture Op. 36 (1888) [15.00]
Antar - Third Version - Symphonic Suite Op. 9 (1868, 1876, 1903) [33.23]
Philharmonia/Yevgeny Svetlanov
rec. 15-16 Dec 1999. DDD
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55137 [48.48]

In anyone's book these are great Rimsky-Korsakov readings to which Svetlanov, ever the incendiary, injects passion and brimstone. The orchestra play as if possessed. If you doubt me the listen to the cauldron of whipped sound at 11.03 in the overture. The microphone placement seems closer than usual - especially noticeable at 13.02 but it does absolutely no harm. It is as if the recording team of Antony Howell and Mark Brown were determined to apply Russian style recording practices as well. Listen to the rushing violins at 13.40 in the orgiastic magnificence of the close of the 1888 overture. As for the voluptuous Antar, no matter how tortuous was its genesis and evolution, for it to succeed it has to be done in the most sumptuous of apparel. Even the sable moments need to glisten. That treatment is precisely what these works get here. It is perhaps the most refined sounding Antar Svetlanov set down. I still obstinately insist on the merits of the Svetlanov/USSR version on a deleted BMG-Melodiya double (all three symphonies plus Sheherazade) even though the sound is edgy if undeniably vibrant. Hyperion however seem determined to hold us in their gaze and grip us by the lapels.

Rimsky tackled the Antar fairytale at the suggestion of Mussorgsky and Balakirev. The latter conducted the premiere of the 1868 original version. Osip Senkovsky's version of the mid-Eastern fairytale has the disillusioned hero Antar roaming in despair in the desert of Sham. He sees a gazelle and gives chase only to find a giant bird also intent on the gazelle as prey. He beats off the bird and falls asleep. He dreams of a palace where he is attended by female slaves and realises that the gazelle was none other than the peri Gul Nazar, Queen of Palmyra. In gratitude the Gul promises him the three great joys of life and these are celebrated in the last three movements of Antar - the Joy of Revenge, the Joy of Power and the Joy of Love. The work has a wealth of smashing tunes and gloriously apt orchestration.

All of this is at bargain price and although the disc is short on playing time there is no short-changing when it comes to interpretative 'clout' and zest. Svetlanov is in resounding and resplendent form with the best Russian sounding orchestra outside Russia.

Rob Barnett



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