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CD: Crotchet AmazonUK AmazonUS

Alexander BORODIN (1833-1887)
CD 1
Symphony No. 1 in E flat major [35:22]
Symphony No. 3 in minor [19:36]
Romance for baritone and orchestra (orch. Glazunov) [3:29]
'At the homes of Other Folk' for mezzo and orchestra [3:52]
CD 2
Symphony No. 2 in B minor [28:94]
Petite Suite (orch. Glazunov) [29:37]
Polovtsian Dances [15:03]
Tord Wallström (baritone); Larissa Dyadkova (mezzo)
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Gennady Rozhdestvensky
rec. Stockholm Concert Hall, 17 November 1992, 1 April 1993, 16 September 1993 (1, 3); 30-31 March 1993, 18 March 1994 (2). DDD
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 93348 [62:56 + 75:00]
Experience Classicsonline

Brilliant is one of those companies you have to watch carefully and especially if you are an enthusiast of Russian and Scandinavian music. They move with some agility among the ‘feeding stations’ offered by the licensing wings of the larger companies such as EMI, Chandos and BIS. In this case they reached agreement with Chandos.
Essentially this set offers us the three Borodin symphonies plus all in superlative sound. The performances are engaging if lacking the unbridled abandon we find with Svetlanov. I say Symphonies plus. The other elements are the Polovtsian Dances minus chorus, the Petite Suite and a couple of rare songs with orchestra. 
Rozhdestvensky is in his element in the flittering Scherzo of No. 1 but the tragic intensity could have been stronger in the finale. The Third Symphony is often denigrated by those ‘in the know’ but I have always regarded it with great affection. There is no disfavour flowing from the fact that its two movements were completed by Glazunov. Its playful cornemuse Scherzo only accentuates the work’s charm and lightness of spirit. The Ballad is convincingly done by Wallström with something of a heroic ring. Larissa Dyadkova muses and flames pleasingly in the lilting At the Homes of Other Folk. The Second Symphony is one of those emblems of the Russian romantic-nationalist movement. I have heard it in more impassioned performances than this but Rozhdestvensky lets it make its effect without inflaming the emotions. His example can be heard in the satisfying yet careful Scherzo. Poetry appears to be the first concern.
The Glazunov-orchestrated Petite Suite is light and feathery. It is rather akin to undemanding balletic Tchaikovsky and is not even as stirring as Glazunov's From the Middle Ages suite.
Though shorn of chorus Rozhdestvensky does the Polovtsian Dances with a winning smile and no little fervour. I am not sure that I have heard the famous romance done with such rapture (tr. 13, CD 2)
One might have expected to find the Prince Igor Overture here but no sign of it. It could have rounded out the loosely packed first disc.
The format for this set follows that of Brilliant's similarly Chandos-sourced 3CD  set of the Rachmaninov songs. This entails a three section fold-in hard-card case with one section for each of the CDs and the booklet. It is neat and tidy and reduces use of the world's plastics.
Rozhdestvensky is a characterful conductor with an affectionate persona. He has a glint in his eye but in this project chose to distance himself from the wilder accelerants and ignition offered by other of his countrymen.
If I was going for the symphonies alone and wanted a higher temperature and more volatility I would opt for Svetlanov or the superb Tjeknavorian. If I wanted the Second Symphony with some of the Igor items I would go, without hesitation, to Ole Schmidt's RPO Regis collection.
The three pages of English-only notes do the essential business.
The sung words are not provided nor are the translations. You could try tracking them down via the download section of the Chandos website where you should find the notes under the original discs: CHAN 9199 (1 and 3) and CHAN 9386 (2).
This is poetically-accented music-making at bargain price and in enjoyably superb recording quality.
Rob Barnett


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