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Evgeny Svetlanov
Alexander BORODIN (1833-1887)
Symphony No.1 in E flat major (1862-67) [34:52]
Symphony No.3 in A minor (unfinished) op. posth. (1883-87) [19:40]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Concert Waltzes for orchestra: No. 1 in D major Op.47 (1893) [9:14]: No.2 in F major Op.51 (1894) [8:35]
CD 2
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1934)
Overture Solennelle in D major Op.73 (1900) [10:56]
Cortčge Solonel in D major Op.50 (1894)[6:16]
Počme Lyrique in D flat Op.12 (1884-87) [12:15]
Finnish Fantasy in C Op.88 (1909) [12:35]
March on Russian Themes Op.76 (1901) [5:09]
Triumphal March in E flat major Op.40 (1892) [8:44]
Mazurka in G major Op.18 (1888) [7:42]
Alexander DARGOMIZHSKY (1813-1910)
Rusalka overture (1848-55) [6:12]
CD 3
Mily BALAKIREV (1837-1910)
Symphony No.1 in C major (1864-66 revised 1893-97) [40:24]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Suite from the opera "Snow Maiden" (1880-81 revised 1895-98) [12:50]
Suite from the opera "Pan Voyevoda", Op.59 (1903) [22:48]
CD 4
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Symphony No. 2 (1907) [53:49]
Sergei LYAPUNOV (1859-2924)
Polonaise in D major Op.16 (1902) [7:24]
Anatol LIADOV (1855-1914)
Polonaise in C major Op.49 (1899) [7:50]
Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)
Waltz-Caprice in E flat major (1870) [6:17]
Mikhail GLINKA (1804-1857)
Patriotic Song (? 1834-36) [2:27]
Incidental music to N. Kukolnik’s tragedy "Prince Kholmsky" (1840) [20:41]
Ivan Susanin [A Life for the Tsar] - Act II Dances (1834-36) [20:31]
Eduard NÁPRAVNÍK (1839-1916)
Polonaise from Dubrovsky Op.58 (1894) [4:45]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Polonaise from Cherevichki TH8 (1885) [6:19]
Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker Op.71 (1891-92) [6:54]
Eugene Onegin –Polonaise in D major Op.24 (1877-78) [5:06]
Anton ARENSKY (1861-1906)
Suite for Orchestra No.3 Op.33 (1894) [4:33]
Nicolai MIASKOVSKY (1881-1950)
Symphony No.22 in B minor Op.54 Symphonic Ballad (1941) [36:35]
Symphony No.25 in D flat major Op.69 (1946 revised 1949) [30:49]
Boris PARSADANIAN (1925-1997)
Symphony No. 2 Martyros Saryan in E flat major Op.6 (1961) [44:01]
Alexandra PAKHMUTOVA (b.1929)
Concerto for Orchestra in E major (1971) [11:58]
Arkady MAZAEV (1909-1987)
The Krasnodonians – symphonic poem [17:52]
Rostislav BOIKO (1931-)
Symphony No. 2 Op.64 (1978) [21:11]
Peter’s Chimes - Symphonic Suite Op.36 (c.1972) [22:25]
Symphony No.3 in D minor for soprano, chorus and orchestra (by 1982) [23:51]
Halik ZAIMOV (1914-1977)
Overture for symphony Orchestra  [8:35]
Evgeny SVETLANOV (1928-2002)
Siberian Fantasy for large symphony orchestra co-written with Igor YAKUSHENKO (1953-54) [17:12]
Preludes – symphonic reflections (1966) [22:44]
Daugava – symphonic poem (1952) [15:11]
Festive Poem Op.9  [13:37]
Evgeny SVETLANOV (1928-2002)
Symphony No.1 in B minor Op.13 (1956) [45:09]
Pictures of Spain – Rhapsody for large orchestra (1954)[16:21]
Alexei MURAVLEV (b.1924)
Azov Mountain – symphonic poem in D major Op.10 [15:19]
USSR State Symphony Orchestra
Grand Symphony Orchestra of TV and Radio
Bolshoi Theatre Symphony Orchestra
Evgeny Svetlanov
Rec.1954 -1992
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 9001 [10 CDs: 73:20 + 69:51 + 76:08 + 75:48 + 71:51 + 67:25 + 73:34 + 75:23 + 68:49 + 76:54]

Experience Classicsonline


 I tend to feel my head spinning a bit when another Svetlanov box lands on my doormat. His widow Nina has brought out a series of extensive composer-based boxes, Melodiya has excavated numerous issues, and Warner is doing vast business as well. We live in voluminous but often duplicatory times, a state of affairs not helped by the notorious inexactitude that seems to have fallen, like an Iron Curtain, over a number of these reissues.

I’m afraid I’m going to cut and paste a number of my individual reviews that happen to relate to these items because pace Brilliant’s customary claim very few, if any of these recordings is live. They’re all, so far as I can see, part of the commercial canon. And on that point I would like to nominate a brave, catalogue-minded soul to try to compile a Svetlanov discography so that we mortals can keep track, with confidence, of the plethora of material now flooding the market. Either that or I will use my standard default position that these are all USSR Symphony/Bolshoi or Grand Symphony Melodiyas.

As for the first disc of the ten, attention will naturally fall on the unfinished Third Symphony of Borodin [see Melodiya MEL CD 10 00155], of which two movements exist. With his sense of dynamism, colour and a fairly elastic control of tempi Svetlanov proves a memorable exponent of the symphonic torso. The winds are especially beguiling in their plangency and feeling in the opening movement. The second is dynamic, rhythmically virile. The brass, without becoming coarse or blatant, lend their masculine surety to the proceedings, but there’s real affection in the phrasing of the strings. There are no half measures in this kind of playing; it’s bold, powerful, full of feeling and more often than not hard to resist. The same composer’s First Symphony [also on Melodiya MEL CD 10 00154] was recorded in 1983 and has some very prominent winds. Partly this is a result of a rather one-dimensional recording but I must say it didn’t overly concern me, so alive and vibrant is the playing. Svetlanov is on fiery rhythmic form; as ever with him brass is really brassy and slightly braying, though never as much as when he directed the Bolshoi band. The vivacious and decidedly Mendelssohnian Scherzo responds well to this kind of incisive but never over-pressed playing but the highlight of the performance is surely the burnished slow movement. The autumnal and verdant phrasing – with middle string voicings rising and cresting with arching eloquence – is most distinguished. So too is the oboe principal’s playing and the felicitous generosity of the music making in general. Don’t overlook the nippy brass and characterful winds in the briskly accented finale. 

Disc two has a lot of Glazunov. You will find an extensive collection of the music of the composer on the SVET label (see review). The Overture Solennelle in D major is punchy and vital whilst the Lyrical Poem is pliant and full of bel canto lyricism. Cortčge Solonel in D major is full of imperial splendour. Balakirev’s First Symphony has made a recent appearance on Regis RRC 1131 where it’s coupled with the symphonic poems Russia and Tamara. The Symphony receives a folklorically evocative and drivingly intense reading – biting trumpets and curvaceous string choirs to the fore. As for the two Rimsky items in this third disc one simply sits back and admires the rhythmic brio of the Cracovienne from Pan Voyevoda or the veiled warmth of the Nocturne, with its little reminisce of Vltava at the end. The following Mazurka is wittily suggestive. The suite from the Snow Maiden is short but terrific. The bird-calls, the lithe exciting phrasing and string weight, the colossal personality … all this makes for twelve minutes of intoxicating fun.  You can find both these works and a whole phalanx of Rimsky recordings on SVET 57-009-1/3, a six-disc set.

Disc four sports one of Svetlanov’s famous traversals of Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony. He left several behind but this one can also be found on, for instance, SVET 04981-6 which is another bulky single-composer box. As for the Second; good news; it’s passionate. Bad news; it’s cut. Getting it in at just under fifty-four minutes means a lot of jettisoning. I think this is the 1968 Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra performance issued back in the late 90s on a Melodiya twofer. Whichever it is it sounds suitably adrenalin-enriched but also, because of the slow movement and other cuts in the finale, somewhat perfunctory in places and disfigured both by the cuts and by added percussion. Certainly next to Svetlanov’s "Last Testament" recording for French Warner which I recently reviewed it’s badly eclipsed.

The fifth disc is given over to Glinka. The incidental music to Prince Kholmsky allows one to appreciate the noble side of Glinka’s imagination – try the Entr’acte to Act II – as well as his deft skill at characterisation of which the slightly pomposo feel of the Act IV Entr’acte is a classic example. As for Ivan Susanin most of it, as is the case of Kholmsky, is contained in the SVET Glinka box [38-003 1/3 – three CDs] which has a little more material than this Brilliant box. This fifth disc also sports some waltzes and polonaises from Tchaikovsky, Nápravník and Arensky - talking of whom you’ll find the complete Suite No.3 on SVET 003 03-3. 

I suppose Miaskovsky admirers will want to know about CD6, which contains two performances. The first is of Symphony No.22 in B minor Op.54 Symphonic Ballad composed in 1941. This gripping performance is the same one that graced Melodiya and EMI-Melodiya transfers and which can currently be found in the Svetlanov-Warner box set of the complete symphonies [Warner Classics 2564 69689-8] though the Warner is the better transfer. Its companion Symphony No.25 in D flat major is not the same as the Warner issue. It was recorded considerably earlier, back in 1957, eight years after the work’s revision. The soaring lyricism, with vibrant playing and interpretation, is significantly tauter than it was later to become and Miaskovskians will want to hear this earlier, more near-the-point-of-origin recording if they can.

Boris Parsadanian’s Second Symphony has appeared before now on Revelation Records RV10109. He was an Armenian seemingly steeped in Shostakovich – keening, piercing, jagged string lines and a brittle, tense atmosphere. There’s an off-beat brusque scherzo and a driven, stricken, military finale. Alexandra Pakhmutova’s 1971 Concerto for Orchestra in E major is another terse, biting work, urgent, a touch Shchedrin like, and often uncooperative – a good work, superbly performed. She was a Secretary of the Soviet Composers’ Union for a time, an ambiguous figure, and reportedly Brezhnev’s favourite composer – which seems pretty unlikely considering the tough stance adopted here.  Arkady Mazaev’s symphonic poem The Krasnodonains is very closely recorded, all the better to catch its surging, gritty power which alternatives resonantly with pellucid lines for the folkloric clarinet. This is an exciting novelty that even seasoned Svetlanov-watchers will probably never have encountered.  

Boiko’s Second Symphony was on Revelation Records RV10105. It’s couched in a post-Rachmaninoff-meets-Khachaturian way. It’s a tonal treat, effulgent and full of spirited tunes with a knap sack full of Tchaikovskian ardour in the long, slow finale. Try the Imperial brass in the central movement and savour the energy levels of a work that should be far better known than it is. Peter’s Chimes is bold, blatant and not always too serious, though afflicted by annoying fade-outs, whereas Symphony No.3 is different again. It’s not entirely dissimilar to the Second Symphony but has a greater sense of acidity. There’s a very ardent chorus and a vaguely Semitic cast to some of the presumably Armenian melody lines. The folklorically saturated solos are evocative and add strongly to the work’s character and melos.

Svetlanov was himself a composer. Daugava – symphonic poem is almost defiantly old-fashioned – coursing with Lett folk themes, Tchaikovsky, bitingly blaring brass (of course) and skirling "School of 1905" strings. A touch of acerbity comes via Prokofiev but the Big Tune is defiantly Svetlanov’s own; a good one too. The Siberian Fantasy was co-written with Yakushenko. It has Miaskovsky-like nobility and gravity of utterance with an especially attractive mazy, meandering section complete with a prominent role for the solo violin. Pictures of Spain is an Iberian Rhapsody with a powerful role for the solo clarinet and elsewhere some unashamedly virtuosic old school panache for the band. Svetlanov really lets rip with Andalusian fire here, in a broadly Lalo-esque sort of way. The Symphony is one of his best-known works and he promoted it in his concert touring, not always to the delight of promoters and agents. The predominant influences are Rachmaninovian lyricism, overlaid with Shostakovich-like march rhythms and a vein of Miaskovsky-like melancholy and occasional dynamism. There’s a film music aura to the light-footed scherzo and alternately portentous and becalmed warmth in the slow movement. The Shostakovich influence is most marked in the finale before we arrive at the bell-chime Mussorgskian triumphalism of the final measures. There is a large conspectus of Svetlanov-conducts-Svetlanov performances on SVCO 001/4-004/4 [4 CDs] but I’m not convinced there is any overlap. I wonder if this Brilliant recording of the Symphony might be one of its earlier performances.

Queries and conundrums aside this box offers often coruscating and winning performances of standard and novel repertoire. There are some palpable misses, and given the state of the Svetlanov discography one would sympathise with those who baulked at another confusing collection of often reissued and sometimes indifferently recorded material. But there are some outstanding things here if you know where to look.


Jonathan Woolf


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