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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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The Best Ever Russian Orchestral Music Collection
CD 1
Mily BALAKIREV (1837-1910) Overture on Russian Themes [8:33]
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/Shalom Ronly-Riklis
Alexander BORODIN (1833-1887) Nocturne from String Quartet no. 2 [7:43]
Queensland Symphony Orchestra/Wilfred Lehmann
Mikhail IPPOLITOV-IVANOV (1859-1935) Procession of the Sardar from Caucasian Sketches [4:21]
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881) Dawn on the Moscow River from Khovanshchina [5:32]
West Australian Symphony Orchestra/David Measham
Piotr TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Miniature Overture from The Nutcracker [3:17]
Queensland Symphony Orchestra/Werner Andreas Albert
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975) Romance from The Gadfly [6:26]
Barbara Jane Gilby, violin
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/David Stanhope
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953) March from The Love for Three Oranges [1:52]
Queensland Symphony Orchestra/Patrick Thomas
TCHAIKOVSKY Andante Cantabile, op. 11 [6:46]
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/David Stanhope
MUSSORGSKY (orch. Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)) The Great Gate of Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition [5:22]
West Australian Symphony Orchestra/David Measham
TCHAIKOVSKY Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet [3:31]
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/David Stanhope
Anatol LIADOV (1855-1914) A Musical Snuffbox [2:12]
Queensland Symphony Orchestra/Patrick Thomas
TCHAIKOVSKY 1812 Overture [15:29]
Sydney Symphony Orchestra/ Stuart Challender
CD 2
Nikolay RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908) The Tale of Tsar Saltan (excerpts) [21:32]
PROKOFIEV Lieutenant Kije Suite, op. 60 [21:30]
LIADOV The Enchanted Lake, op. 62 [9:18]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943) Capriccio on Gypsy Themes, op. 12 [19:34]
Vincent YOUMANS (1898-1946) (arr. Shostakovich) Tahiti Trot, op. 16 [4:01]
Queensland Symphony Orchestra/Vladimir Verbitsky
CD 3
BORODIN In the Steppes of Central Asia [7:24]
Sydney Symphony Orchestra/ Eric Clapham
PROKOFIEV The Street Awakens from Romeo and Juliet [1:38]
Sydney Symphony Orchestra/ Peter Grunberg
MUSSORGSKY Gopak from Sorochintsi Fair [2:00}
West Australian Symphony Orchestra/David Measham
BORODIN Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor [10:35]
Sydney Symphony Orchestra/ Stuart Challender
LIADOV Humorous Song from Eight Russian Folksongs [1:54]
Dmitri KABALEVSKY (1904-1987) Galop from The Comedians [1:45]
Sydney Symphony Orchestra/ Eric Clapham
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936) Summer from The Seasons [10:37]
Sydney Symphony Orchestra/ Wilfred Lehmann
SHOSTAKOVICH Dance from Ballet Suite No. 2 [1:45]
Sydney Symphony Orchestra/ Roland Peelman
PROKOFIEV Romeo and Juliet (excerpts) [12:35]
Sydney Symphony Orchestra/ Christopher Nichols
TCHAIKOVSKY Marche slave [10:02]
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra/Hubert Soudant
SHOSTAKOVICH Festival Overture [6:41]
Sydney Symphony Orchestra/ Bernard Heinze
RACHMANINOV Vocalise [6:42]
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra/David Stanhope
ABC CLASSICS 476 8087 [3 CDs: 71:33 + 75:55 + 73:08]

As one might guess from the extensive list at the top of this review, this is a collection of short Russian orchestral works, performed by a variety of Australian orchestras. There are, I believe, two potential market niches for this collection. The first would be those who are looking for more than a single disc - as there are a multitude of one-disc collections of this sort. As such, it might make a good gift to a friend or relative who heard one of these works on the radio and is excited enough to explore further. At about $15 American for three discs, the price is definitely right. There are, however, no liner notes beyond track listings.

I will take a specific look at three of the performances in this collection as being indicative of the project as a whole.

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra gives a good, spirited performance of the 1812 Overture. However, it pales in comparison with that of Neeme Järvi and the Gothenburg Symphony (DG 429 984-2). The latter ensemble is helped in these efforts by the voices of the symphony’s chorus and the heavy cannons of the Gothenburg Artillery Division. Beyond that, whether due to the recording or the sound of the symphony itself, we lose some of the impact of the timbre of the cymbals or the trombones that are a direct part of the impact of the Gothenburg recording. Also missing in Sydney is the last bit of the "hell bent for leather" propulsion that makes this piece a perennial guilty pleasure.

The Queensland Symphony performs Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kije Suite with more character and verve than the Sydney Symphony’s efforts. The brass and the woodwinds are comparatively colorful and pungent. The performance, however, still is lacking in those issues compared to the best, including Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra (Sony SBK 48 162) and Järvi, this time with the Scottish National Orchestra (Chandos CHAN 8806).

The recording of Tchaikovsky’s March slave, with the Melbourne Symphony, is similar in style and quality to that of the Lieutenant Kije Suite. I gave it the harder test of comparing it to a contemporary Russian recording, that of the Russian State Symphony under Polyansky (Chandos CHAN 9356). The Russians come in a minute faster, sounding far more menacing and martial along the way. One could note, perhaps over-interpreting, that the Russian performance conveys the weight of recent experience of war, whereas the Melbourne Symphony is working to make pleasant music.

The Australian orchestras presented here cannot compete with even the second tier of American or British orchestras, either in terms of orchestral sound and skill or in conductorial leadership. While this collection may provide an enticing introduction to listeners new to classical music, it will prove a disappointment to anyone familiar with more capable and more inspired renditions of these, taken singly, oft-recorded pieces.

Brian Burtt
May provide an enticing introduction to listeners new to classical music, it will prove a disappointment to anyone familiar with more capable and more inspired renditions of these, taken singly, oft-recorded pieces. ... see Full Review

 

 



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