After the thrills and
spills of Svetlanovís Kalinnikov Second
Symphony performance, newly reissued
on Melodiya [review],
this re-release is somewhat more sedate.
Thatís no reflection of any ailing Svetlanovian
powers - far from it - nor the 1990
recording; rather itís to do with the
The First Symphony
is generally held to be much the Secondís
superior Ė though I happen to admire
the Second greatly. But the Suite is
really nowhere near the level of either.
Thatís not to deny its tunefulness or
charm Ė two qualities abundantly to
be heard in this performance Ė but simply
to place it in the hierarchy of Kalinnikovís
orchestral music. It was composed in
1892 and cast in a straightforward rather
symphonic four-movement structure. In
fact at nearly forty minutes itís certainly
in symphonic waters, temporally speaking.
The influence is predominately
that of Tchaikovsky in symphonic vein.
The sombre, very slightly academic feel
of the opening Andante can be
directly traced back to the older man.
The Allegro scherzando has a
highly personable folkloric vein running
through it. Itís a movement ultimately
fuelled by the melodic avarice of the
winds and theyíre given free rein by
Svetlanov to indulge their lissom songs.
The slow movement is more problematic,
especially clocking in at nearly nineteen
minutes. The contours are fine, with
an impressive outburst three quarters
of the way through. The writing is otherwise
stately, noble and refined Ė and also
elegant. The finale is a muscular and
rather imperial workout. It might have
worked better remodelled as a Scherzo,
in which form it would certainly not
have disgraced a Glazunov symphony,
or indeed one of Kalinnikovís.
There are two companion
pieces. Cedar and Palm was written
between 1897 and 1898. Itís a tone poem,
in effect, with a trace element of Schubert
in one or two places Ė notably the wind
writing. Elsewhere Svetlanov encourages
some rude trumpet bray and jaunty harp
arpeggios; wistfulness and watchfulness
go armed together in this work subsumed
as they are into the romantic string
yearning that Kalinnikov so effortlessly
Finally thereís Bylina,
written still earlier, and a work that
therefore predates the First Symphony.
Itís an athletic and invigorating foray
though, even at twelve minutes, very
much too long for its thematic material.
Its natural seedbed is Tchaikovskian
ballet, from which Kalinnikov has clearly
learned a great deal. The folk tunes
are deft if not as deftly organised
as they were to become in his symphonic
writing. But fine to have, all the same.
Svetlanov proves powerfully
in control of Kalinnikovís folk-and-romance
sound world. Everything sounds proudly
vibrant and alive. And the recordings
match the pungency of the playing in
time-honoured Melodiya fashion.