It’s not easy being an admirer of Evgeny Svetlanov. Plenty of
re-releases have muddied the discographical waters, and it’s
not easy to keep up with apparently multiply released versions
of the same work – or are they, so one fears, actually different
versions entirely? The same piece with a different orchestra?
Or a live version? The SVET label released a fantastic corpus
of good things but added to the confusion by not including any
recording details and as often as not omitting entirely the
names of all performers bar the conductor.
Here, however, we have relatively well documented studio Svetlanov
in idiomatic, persuasive performances from 1977 – Balakirev
and Rimsky – and 1990, in the case of the Glazunov. The opener
is Balakirev’s Tamara in a wonderfully vivid, tangy and
evocative 1977 recording with – as they all are – the USSR State
Academic Symphony Orchestra on top form. It’s followed by Antar,
or the Symphony No.2, by Rimsky-Korsakov. It too dates from
1977. There are a number of recordings extant. There’s this
one, also on Warner, there’s the one on RCA Red Seal with the
Russian State Academic Symphony, there’s a restricted issue
one with the Residentie Orchestra of the Hague (it’s on their
own label), and there’s the Philharmonia recording now on Helios
CDH55137. This studio Melodiya is not the same as the SVET issue;
57-009-1/3. It’s interesting to hear the difference between
recordings – the SVET is blowsier but the studio Melodiya’s
Allegro risoluto is played more crisply, more staccato
than its competitors. Melodiya’s recording is also quite dry
though in the March themes it’s more exciting than the SVET.
Maybe the best of all is the Hyperion version, where the recording
allows the music’s colouristic strands to blossom. Still, this
is another atmospheric performance, which, as I noted in my
review of the SVET, is imbued with fine tangy winds, a dramatic
percussion section (in the Allegro risoluto in particular)
and in the finale a gauzy, hazy, introduction that keeps the
sense of mystery running high.
The Oriental Rhapsody is a very opulent affair, exotic,
with sweeping dance patterns, percussive interjections, and
the sultry eyed stare of the East. It appears to be slightly
different from the version contained in SVET’s Glazunov box
27-32/18 - but I can’t swear to it, not having it to hand
at the moment.
This well selected trio of performances should appeal widely
even if, like me, you prefer an alternative Antar.