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Anton RUBINSTEIN (1829-1894)
Quintet for flute, clarinet, horn, bassoon and piano in F major, Op.55 (1855) [38:44]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Quintet for flute, clarinet, horn, bassoon and piano in B flat major (1876) [30:47]
Rubinstein: Aleksey Nasedkin (piano): Valentin Zverev (flute): Vladimir Sokolov (clarinet): Anatoly Dyomin (horn): Sergey Krasavin (bassoon)
Rimsky-Korsakov: Alexander Bakhchiev (piano): Alexander Korneyev (flute): Vladimir Zverev (clarinet): Boris Afanasyev (horn): Vladimir Vlasenko (bassoon)
rec. 1977 (Rubinstein) and 1965 (Rimsky)
Russian Chamber Music for Wind Instruments - Vol. 1
MELODIYA MELCD1002099 [69:35]

This the first volume in a reissue programme devoted to Melodiya’s back catalogue of music for wind instruments. The inaugural release sets a high marker, given in particular the 1977 recording of Anton Rubinstein’s splendid Wind Quintet, played by a first-class ensemble of chamber players.
 
It’s as well that the players are so characterful given the work’s rich and broad scheme. It has a ceremonial flourish about it, and a concertante role for the piano, which is taken here with a degree of magisterial assurance by Aleksey Nasedkin. The exchanges between winds and piano are both devout and occasionally a touch salon-based – those roulades in the first movement are somewhat artful – but presence is certainly established by the horn playing of Anatoly Dyomin.
 
Many people remain allergic to Russian horn playing, likening it to saxophonic sludge, so wide is the vibrato. Nevertheless this is surely a matter of taste similar to French and German preferences in oboe playing in the 1930s. Better, perhaps, to welcome differences in national styles even when the sound is alien. The chattering scherzo gives the players the chance to reveal their deft articulation, and here the flute of Valentin Zverev can often be heard leading the pack. The slow movement is flowing and lyrical, the piano’s clarity and the ripe wind sonorities granting it depth. Here the quasi-virtuosic piano writing is at its zenith, albeit occasionally to the point of being showy. The finale sums up all that is eager and approachable in this work and indeed performance; alternatingly refined and dynamic piano writing, a fine balance between winds and piano, sonorous and individual sounding ensemble sonority, and lyrical themes, well developed.
 
Rimsky-Korsakov’s Wind Quintet was composed a generation after Rubinstein’s, in 1876, and was recorded in 1965. Despite the earlier recording date the sound is equally fine. The only player common to both recordings is Vladimir Zverev who can be heard as flautist in the Rubinstein but clarinettist in the Rimsky. The Quintet is a balanced three-movement one, full of clarity and colour featuring an especially lovely horn solo in the Andante – played with requisite sax vibrato by Boris Afanasyev – where the pirouetting flute of Alexander Korneyev adds its own avian gloss. There is much vitalising playing to be heard in a work that is less monumental than its earlier counterpart but no less enjoyable.
 
So, roll on volume two from Melodiya’s capacious vaults.
 
Jonathan Woolf