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Sergei TANEYEV (1856-1915)
Concert Suite for Violin and Orchestra Op.28 (1909) [44:43] ¹
Symphony No.4 in C minor Op.12 (1898) [41:37]
Apollo’s Temple in Delphi [5:56]
Cantata No.2 ‘At the Reading of a psalm’ Op.36 (1915) [63:37] ²
Alexander KASTALSKY (1856-1926)
Brotherly Prayer for the Dead (1915) [69:21]
Andrei Korsakov (violin) ¹
Ludmila Belobragina (soprano), Lyubov Aleshchenkova (mezzo soprano), Evgeni Vladimirov (bass) ²
USSR TV and Radio Large Chorus and Symphony Orchestra/Evgeny Svetlanov
rec. Moscow 1977-90
SVET 93-96/4 [4 CDs: 44:43 + 47:16 + 63:37 + 59:21]
Experience Classicsonline


Booklet gripes are semi-endemic among reviewers, especially (perish the thought) those for whom a booklet gripe can consume the greater part of a review. I’ve avoided too many gripes when it doesn’t materially affect the listening experience but I’m duty bound, for obvious reasons, to note that this four CD set, the latest of my Svetlanov tranche, fails to mention the names of any of the soloists or choir. The three solo vocal performers in the Kastalsky can consider themselves hard done by but the late violinist Andrei Korsakov even more so, as he was a fluent and expressive soloist too little heard on disc. For the record I’ve added their names to the head note.

Andrei Korsakov (1946-1990) is the soloist in a work that’s even now still considered David Oistrakh’s property, the Concert Suite by Taneyev, the composer who takes the lion’s share of this box. It’s a work that Lydia Mordkovich has just recorded but I do hope that Eduard Grach’s recording with Rozhdestvensky will appear on CD – I’d have thought that RCD might have picked it up, but someone should. Despite these tempting alternatives, and leaving the Oistrakh to one side - there is a live broadcast on Brilliant to consider as well – Korsakov plays with considerable panache and poetry and proves a warmly sympathetic guide. Fortunately his tone is forward in the accepted Russian manner and he dispatches the folkloric episodes with élan and a very tight trill.

Taneyev’s Fourth Symphony gets the expected Svetlanov virtues of ardent sweep and colour saturation. The brass is trenchant and biting and there’s measured gravity in the slow movement with its light, wind interludes. The finale is full of drama and Brahmsian power, the triumphal brass perorations immensely exciting. To round out this second disc we have Apollo’s Temple in Delphi, which fuses luscious efflorescence with vestigial power in six minutes of echt-Svetlanov conducting. If you prefer a more technically accurate reading try Rozhdestvensky’s on Chant du Monde 278931 or Järvi’s excellent Chandos traversal [CHAN 8953] among others.

Cantata No.2 ‘At the Reading of a psalm’ Op.36 occupies the third disc. It’s a big and dramatic work and fortunately we have three big and dramatic solo voices - Ludmila Belobragina (soprano), Lyubov Aleshchenkova (mezzo soprano), Evgeni Vladimirov (bass), the unfortunate trio omitted in the box’s documentation. Taneyev had a talent for summoning atmosphere with great vividness and he employs some striking sonorities in the chorus and triple fugue that ends Part One –  real force here. But he doesn’t stint the poetry of the setting either nor the sombre, brooding qualities that permeate the Second Part – along with admixture of Wagnerian harmonies. The statuesque Aleshchenkova is down as a mezzo but there’s surely more of the Clara Butts about her voice – she sounds positively sepulchral in the Adagio aria of Part Three. Here Taneyev, as does Glazunov in some of his symphonic work, sounds close to Elgar. This is a stirring, dramatic, consoling and often beautiful work, vividly though not always neatly played.

The final disc is given over to the Brotherly Prayer for the Dead by Alexander Kastalsky, written in 1915 – the same year in which Taneyev wrote his Cantata. This is another profoundly serious and moving work and it’s eloquently served by the orchestral and choral forces here with some glorious singing all round. Whether dramatically infused or lamenting, whether summoning military brass or consoling this is another work fully deserving repeated hearings. It’s appropriate that it’s here since the composer was a pupil of Taneyev and his fusion of Russian Orthodox and other traditions, principally Serbian and Anglican, gives the work its individual force.

Adherents of Svetlanov’s exploration of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Russian music should gravitate to this impressive box.


Jonathan Woolf


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