This is classic Borodin.
Tjeknavorian’s vision of these works
is neither tame nor picturesque. He
directs performances that are virile
and pumped up with a peculiar excitement
whether in the quicker more passionate
music or in the dreamy steppe reflections
of the No. 1’s andantino, No. 2’s andante
and No. 3’s lovingly shaped moderato
Tjeknavorian is aided
by a world class orchestra of freelances
hand-picked by its leader Sidney Sax.
That exceptionally gifted conductor
and producer Charles Gerhardt oversaw
the sessions in London’s Kingsway Hall.
Kenneth E. Wilkinson (assisted by Martin
Atkinson) worked his control-board magic
over the proceedings. The hall’s fabled
acoustics again come into their own
even if we have to make the occasional
trivial concession when the low rumble
of London traffic can be heard in some
quiet moments when setting the volume
at close to full blast. Speaking of
which listen to the extraordinary crashingly
rumbustious full tilt tumult at 5.50
onwards in the finale of the Second
Time has made few inroads
into the splendid sound secured for
those original analogue-captured sessions.
A steely glare obtrudes at moments of
climactic oration by massed violins.
Otherwise the sound, though not as ‘drenched’
as ASV’s for the Tjeknavorian’s Yerevan
sessions, is full of colour and life
with a specially gripping bass extension
and forward voicing for the solo woodwind.
Listen to the prominently growling and
barking trombones at the end of the
first and final movements of the First
Symphony. The bright-eyed woodwind can
be sampled in the second movement of
No. 1 and also throughout the Third
Symphony - a work of infectious and
eager pleasures. The robustly chesty
playing of the full string body in the
First Symphony’s andantino is impressively
weighted. As for the finale Tjeknavorian
surprised me by reminding me of Beethoven’s
Seventh perhaps as whipped to frenzy
by Carlos Kleiber (DG). Nothing is on
autopilot, accents and emphases are
part of the conductor’s stock-in-trade
yet it does not feel as if the work
is being pulled about.
These recordings were
first issued as part of a 3 LP set in
August 1977. I still have that RCA box
(RL25098). These were later reissued
in part on two RCA LPs: RL25322; RL25225.
Despite the excellence of the recordings
and performances the set has never been
reissued complete on CD. In 1991 RCA
issued the Second Symphony, Central
Asia and the Prince Igor orchestral-choral
‘plums’ on Silver Seal 9026-60535-2.
I know about that disc because of the
open-handed kindness of one of the many
friends I have met through this site.
Apart from that there has been nothing
else at all. Here after pleadings to
BMG in the UK appear all three symphonies
in a package that you should snap up
very quickly indeed. We now need to
extend our pleas for reissues of Tjeknavorian’s
complete Khachaturian Gayaneh.
Please BMG do not even think of issuing
highlights; we need the full ballet.
I should also commend his Sibelius 4
and 5. I hope that the success of this
handsome disc will also cause the companies
to take Tjeknavorian back into the studio
The capable and informative
notes are by Richard Freed. At 79 minutes
you can hardly ask for more music and
on top of which the coupling is the
ultimate in logic: all three Borodin
symphonies performed with affection
and passion - all in one package. Tjeknavorian
is an extraordinary musician blending
the hothouse heritages of Golovanov
and Svetlanov on the one hand and on
the other Silvestri and Stokowski on
their best days. Be sure to add this
to your must-have list.