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Rodion SHCHEDRIN (b. 1932)
Carmen Suite for Strings and Percussion (1967)
Russian Photographs (1994)
Velicanie (Glorification) - (1995)

Chamber Orchestra of the Kremlin/Misha Rachlevsky.
recorded in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory on 17th January 2001. DDD
CLAVES CD 50 - 2207 [75’29"]


On this well filled disc we have a further well planned group of works played by the chamber Orchestra of the Kremlin. Earlier discs have been of chamber works of Shostakovich, Vainberg, Schnittke, Miaskovsky, Schoenberg and Strauss, and a compilation disc. All of these have been conducted by the Orchestra’s Conductor in Chief, Misha Rachlevsky. This new disc of the works of Shchedrin is to be welcomed as it contains two world premiere recordings in the latter two pieces on this disc.

The recordings, are superb, in good concert hall perspective, set far enough back in the hall for the warm acoustic to be clearly appreciated. Shchedrin’s arrangement of Bizet’s masterpiece is well known, from other recordings, my own particular favourite being that played by the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra under Gennady Rozhdestvensky. There is an animal attack clearly evident here which is missing from the present disc – perhaps it is something to do with the fact that the earlier recording was the work’s premiere recording, and the playing brought this clearly to the front. The present interpretation is much more sedate with a warm romantic glow over the whole proceedings. Although I like this, the excitement levels are on a much lower plane.

The principal interest in this disc for me was the two other recordings being presented, both world premieres, both works being much more recent than the Bizet arrangements. The first, Russian Photographs, is a four movement suite composed in 1994. The first movement which almost hangs in the air throughout is a pastorale which conjures up a feeling of nostalgia. The second movement is entitled "Cockroaches throughout Moscow" and is suitably realistic scherzo. "Stalin Cocktail" which I believe formed part of another Russian Chamber disc released some time ago on RCA, is a sarcastic Passacaglia which conjures up an horrific picture of "Old Joe". The final movement is entitled "Evening Bells". This is wound around the chorale phrase "forever remembered", and ends with a discordant vocal contribution, presumably from the orchestral players.

The final work on this excellent disc is called Velicanie (Glorification) and, if you can imagine it, opens with a festive, triumphant fanfare , on strings, (sound sample – track 18). This work, written in only eight days, is a fascinating example of Shchedrin’s lively imagination when set a task. The Glorification is truly Russian, with the black side of the celebration coming to the fore, epitomised by themes on double bass interrupting the general flow of the piece.

This is outstanding in every way, provided you are not looking for a more "ethnic" approach to the Bizet arrangement. I enjoyed this disc very much. It can justifiably stand with its head held high in comparison with this ensemble’s earlier issues.

6 Ludwig Points. Sound samples: Track 3, 0’00" Track 15, 00’00" and Track 18, 0’00".

John Phillips

see also reviews by Rob Barnett and Tim Mahon


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