This generously timed disc has also seen action
in the Brilliant catalogue when it was released as part of a duo
CD set on Russian Fairy Tales
Liadov specialised in brief and sometimes concentrated tone poems, in dances and in atmospheric genre miniatures. These are good performances with a small measure of imperfect ensemble recorded in a very lively and resonant hall. Contrast the struttingly grand Pushkin
polonaises with the touching and soulful About Olden Times
; the latter’s Slavic melancholy is worn on its sleeve. Strangely the melody reminded me of John Foulds’ Gaelic Lullaby
before it sets off in a typically lively way reminiscent of Borodin and Kalinnikov. Nenie
has a nervy and Tchaikovskian character. The ticking pulse of Musical Snuffbox
is utterly charming so if you already warm to The Nutcracker
– and who doesn’t – this will instantly win you over. The blare and oppression of Dance of the Amazons
connotes something tougher. And further out along that branch we come to Fragment from The Apocalypse
- a work seemingly caught up in the same visionary Theosophical mysteries as Scriabin in his Poem of Ecstasy
. In this work ringing grandeur rides high in massive combers of sound. The Eight Russian Folk Songs
can be enjoyed in the same company as Balakirev’s folk-themed overtures. The disc ends with Liadov’s most celebrated tone poems. Kikimora
, the story of a tiny spiteful witch is most touching and is spun with gold and silver in the great tradition of Kouchka nationalism. Its magic can be related to a later but much more familiar work – the creepy exoticism of Stravinsky’s The Firebird
. The same magic arches over The Enchanted Lake
in a sweetly sorrowing impressionistic shimmer. Lastly there’s another piece of gruff witchery in the shape of the wicked hag Baba-Yaga
. She was recalled in Bax’s book Farewell My Youth
. Here she is keenly portrayed in spitting Mussorgskian fury as she blunders through the Russian forests with monstrous mortar and pestle.
The brief notes are by Dr David Doughty and usefully hold the listener’s hand through these discoveries.
Interesting to see that this vivid recording was produced by the son of Kirill Kondrashin, Pyotr Kondrashin.
There are alternatives but nothing as comprehensive as this – never mind the bargain price. Previn’s Russian Folk Songs
can be had on HDTT. There’s Gunzenhauser’s collection on Marco Polo 8.220348 now reissued on Naxos (8.555242
). Sinaisky has recorded the tone poems for Chandos (CHAN9911) and is usually good - just remember his superbly animated Moeran Symphony at the Proms in 2009 (please issue it as a BBC Music Magazine cover-disc!). His three disc Sibelius tone poems (Saison Russe CDM LDC 288 015/17) is soon to be reissued by Brilliant. Svetlanov’s glorious analogue Liadov has been around since 1970s LP days (EMI Angel Melodiya Records SR 40159 and has emerged on CD, at first on two BMG 'Twofers': 'Orchestral Pictures from Russia' (74321 34165 2) and 'Russian Moods' (74321 34167 2) and more recently on Warner/Svetlanov edition (Warner 2564698994
Anyone with a taste for Russian nationalism needs to hear the Liadov orchestral works. This disc is an apt way of getting to know them in vividly recorded and dedicated performances.
[Note: Thanks to Mike Herman for pointing out that one work is missing, namely the Mazurka, Village Scene by the Inn, Op. 19 (1887). Both Sinaisky on Chandos and Gunzenhauser on MarcoPolo/Naxos included it in their Liadov collections. To be borne in mind.]