MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Russian Ballet Music
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
1. Scheherazade, Op.35 (1988) [45:21]
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
2. Extracts from Spartacus (1950-54) [32:17]
3. Extracts from Gayaneh (1939-42) [26:21]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
4. The Seasons, Op.67 (1899) [41:10]
Dmitry SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
5. Extracts from The Golden Age, Op.22 (1929) [8:15]
6. Tahiti Trot [3:36]
Philadelphia Orchestra/Richardo Muti; rec. February 1982, Old Met, Philadelphia DDD (1)
London Symphony Orchestra /Aram Khachaturian; rec. February 1977, Abbey Road, London ADD (2)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Yuri Temirkanov; rec. November1983 and Februrary 1985, Abbey Road, London DDD (3)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Evgeny Svetlanov; rec. October 1977, Abbey Road, London ADD (4)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Robert Irving; rec. June 1960, Kingsway Hall, London ADD (5)
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France/Paavo Järvi; rec. December 2002 and June 2003, Radio France, Paris DDD (6)
EMI CLASSICS 9498242 [77:48 + 79:37]

Experience Classicsonline

This is one of twenty or so sets of ballet music recently reissued by EMI as their “Ballet Edition”. As EMI was always the leader in the ballet area, they have ample resources from which to pick and choose.

It is funny that in an album entitled “Russian Ballet Music” most of the works featured are either not ballets, or not Russian, or both. Nonetheless it makes for an excellent collection of imaginative music, in solid, colorful performances. The compilation allows enough diversity and the filling is generous. Some may find old friends; some may make new and exciting acquaintances.

Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade is a symphonic suite based on the tales of The 1001 Nights. The music is flashy and melodic, painted in bright Oriental tones. The layout is based on tales told by Scheherazade to the stern Sultan Shakhriar. The themes of Scheherazade and the Sultan surround the episodes and serve as a unifying element. You may forget Rimsky’s symphonies - even some of his operas - but you’ll never forget Scheherazade. Muti’s rendering is large, heavy, and somewhat pompous. Many episodes are excellent, but links hang loose, as if Muti was indulging himself in phrases to the detriment of the big picture. The beat is too regular to make alive the waves that carry Sinbad’s ship in the first movement: real nature always has these tiny irregularities. But the sheer opulence of this grand orchestral waterfall is impressive. I don’t remember Scheherazade lulling the Sultan to sleep on purpose, yet Muti almost did this to me in the third movement. To tell the truth, Muti often does this to me. But when he is good, he is good. The fast march of the Kalendar movement has great drive – if only the recorded sound was more vivid! The Festival of Baghdad is superb – light and energetic. The final Sea episode is electrifying and grandiose. Another highlight is the elegant solo violin of Normal Carol. Overall, this is a good, firm and faithful performance – however, if you want all these pictures to step out from the walls into your room I would direct you to the brand new Seattle/Schwarz on Naxos.

Aram Khachaturian carved three suites out of his ballet Spartacus. Being separate means being performed independently, and unfortunately only one of them includes the Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia. So nobody actually performs the suites as they are – it’s always the Adagio plus a couple more pieces. The collection on this disc starts with the fiery and exotic Variation of Aegina. Aegina is the mean girlfriend of the Roman consul Crassus, and her music has “black swan” voluptuousness and dark, violent energy. The famous Adagio goes next, and is expressive and tender. This music might be not very sophisticated, but when these lush strings rise and rise to new heights, whose heart won’t follow them? Enter Crassus in a good mood and has his own Adagio with Aegina. It sounds a lot like the preceding one, minus the tune. It is also more lustful than tender, as befits the bad guys. The last excerpt is the exciting Dance of the Gaditaniae. It starts low and slow, then gathers force and momentum, like Ravel’s Bolero. The orchestra is dominated by brass and sonorous percussion. The music gradually builds to a blazing climax. The recorded sound lacks depth, and the strings are sometimes harsh, but under the enthusiastic baton of the composer this can be called an authoritative recording. It is very expressive.

The suite from Gayaneh allows us to enjoy the rainbow of dances without the need to tread through the socialist-realistic plot, with its labor achievements and clandestine counter-revolutionaries doomed to inexorable downfall. Gopak is the only non-oriental piece of the set. It’s like a macho version of polka with a sailor-like rollicking fervor. You certainly know the virile, electrifying Sabre Dance. Mountaineers’ Dance has a similar drive, but is darker and heavier. Ayesha’s Dance is gentle and swaying, with some very Armenian melodic twists that you may know from Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto. Dance of the Rose-Maidens is springy and sunny. The calm Lullaby is full of soft love. It starts in a hush and expands to a passionate climax. Dance of the Young Kurds is energetic and bouncy. Armen’s Variation is fiery and haughty, with huge and assured leaps. The closing Lezghinka is happy and noisy. All the dances are short and have very distinct “faces”, thus the listening never becomes boring. The tempi are fast, and the performance is passionate. The playing is superb and the musicians seem to be having real fun: such enthusiasm cannot be faked. This music may sound plain and square in the wrong hands but under Yuri Temirkanov it sparkles.

From the Revolution until his exile Glazunov had to live in a society that had no use for his music. It was disdained as bourgeois and decadent. I can understand his drinking problems. But in 1899 he was still a young man, a rising star burning with inspiration. The Seasons could easily be mistaken for the fourth ballet by Tchaikovsky. The four parts follow the seasons of the year. Winter is probably the most beautiful, with one lyrical melody after another. The general color scheme is cold, bluish-white, but it’s not all in minor key: winter has a lot of specific winter fun! There are swirling snowflakes and tiny bells that could have come from the enchanted world of Nutcracker. Spring is carefree and gentle, its colors warm and bright. It culminates in one of Glazunov’s signature waltzes. Summer might remind you of the panoramas you saw in The Sleeping Beauty. The music is warm and sunny. Some moments are predictable and somewhat standard, but Glazunov’s sincerity and mastery of orchestration will ensure that you will enjoy even those. The autumnal Bacchanal brings all the subjects together for a final apotheosis. Its festive and peaceful pages glow with mirth. Evgeny Svetlanov, the illustrious interpreter of the Russian classics, conducts a magical performance. His Winter is full of mystery and contrasts, Spring is alive and fluttering, the perfectly measured free-flying swing of Summer will entice you, and Autumn is a miracle of balance. He drives this multi-scene composition as if in one breath. The tempo is generally relaxed, but this only makes the music more natural. On every page Svetlanov finds something that makes the picture alive. The orchestra is nimble and follows his lead lightly. The recording quality is exemplary; the sound has exceptional depth and spatial definition.

Shostakovich was a pupil of Glazunov, but the gap between the styles of the two could not be bigger. The Golden Age is a proletarian burlesque from the time when Shostakovich could laugh without hooded sarcasm. We hear three numbers, starting with a polyphonic Introduction that ends in a circus waltz, then the frivolous and humorous Polka and, finally, the Petrushka-like slapstick Dance, which occasionally slips into elephantine buffoonery.

The strangest stranger here is Shostakovich’s witty and inventive arrangement of Youmans’ Tea for Two.

All in all, this is a fine collection for a nice price. The performances are very good, as is the recording quality. Svetlanov’s The Seasons alone could justify the purchase, but other works, colorful and melodic, in excellent interpretations, are every bit as attractive and can provide a lot of pleasure.

Oleg Ledeniov









Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.