This is an attractive collection of adagios from the Russian, or more correctly, Soviet, repertoire, both from its familiar jewel-studded core - Tchaikovsky, Khachaturian, Prokofiev - and its neglected but enchanting peripheries - Miaskovsky, Glazunov, Khrennikov.
These are fairly old recordings, most likely from the Eighties or early Nineties. The booklet indicates that tracks are all licensed from Russia's National Music Publishers, but no dates or places are supplied. In any case, sound quality is nothing special - it certainly does not have a lossless quality about it. On the other hand the section of the public this compilation is aimed at - more than likely those wanting a taster of 'classical' music, something to relax to in the car or background music for a dinner party - will likely be accustomed to mp3 rather than hi-fi audio, and probably lack a collector's interest in recording details. At any rate, the quality is far from poor, and some recordings are noticeably better than others.
Until the quasi-dismantling of the Soviet Union the Russian State Symphony Orchestra had been known as the USSR State Symphony Orchestra from its foundation in the 1930s. Its official title is the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia, although for the last few years it has also gone under the name of the Svetlanov Symphony Orchestra. This was in honour of the famous conductor, featured in all these recordings and whom the authorities unceremoniously sacked in 2000 for spending too much time abroad.
Bleeding chunks these may all be - Classic FM without the ads and chitchat, is a benign way of describing the programme - but the music is glorious in its mellifluousness and opulence. Khrennikov's Adagio from his ballet 'A Hussar's Ballad' steals the show in terms of romance. It’s a confirmation perhaps of Svetlanov's unfashionable championing of a composer with a controversial political face as head of the Union of Soviet Composers. The purely musical masterpiece, however, is the massive valedictory slow movement from the 27th and last Symphony of Nikolai Miaskovsky. Svetlanov, with considerable justification, once described Miaskovsky as "the founder of Soviet symphonism".
Whether in Miaskovsky or Tchaikovsky or elsewhere, few could rival Svetlanov in conducting Russian music, especially in his luxurious, almost outrageous tempi, and his control of crescendos - witness the spine-tingling instances of both in Khachaturian's Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia. He certainly had plenty of practice, with CDs' worth of Russian music alone reportedly numbering well over two hundred.
Though the accompanying booklet is more of a leaflet, there are at least new notes, written by Malcolm MacDonald, and of his usual high standard, with a decent if generic paragraph on each of the items - though surprisingly nothing on Svetlanov or the RSSO.
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