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Support us financially by purchasing this disc from
Russian Chamber Music for Wind Instruments - Vol. 2
Mikhail GLINKA (1804-1857)
Trio pathétique (1832) [15:19]
Mily BALAKIREV (1837-1910)

Octet (unfinished), Op. 3 (1853/55) [13:51]
Mikhail IPPOLITOV-IVANOV (1859-1935)

An Evening in Georgia, Op.71 (c. mid-1920s) [5:07]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Saxophone Quartet, Op. 109 (1932) [26:58]
Performers listed at end of review
rec. 1981 (Glinka), 1976 (Balakirev, Glazunov), 1975 (Ippolitov-Ivanov)
MELODIYA MELCD1002186 [61:18]

This is volume two in a reissue series of music featuring wind instruments from Melodiya’s cavernous back catalogue. Volume one comprising quintets for piano and winds by Anton Rubinstein and Rimsky-Korsakov was well received by reviewer Jonathan Woolf.

I am especially fond of this area of Russian repertoire and I hope there are further instalments including, fingers crossed, Rubinstein’s early Octet in D major for flute, clarinet, horn, violin, viola, cello, double bass and piano, Op. 9.

The programme is enjoyable and well selected and could be said to provide a basic outline in tracing the development of Russian chamber scores for wind instruments. A period of a hundred years separate the earliest and the most recent of these four works commencing with Glinka’s Trio Pathétique from 1832 (sometimes erroneously given as 1827) to the Glazunov Saxophone Quartet composed in 1932.

I am especially fond of two of Glinka’s beautifully crafted chamber works: the Grand Sextet for piano and strings and also his Viola Sonata. He is represented here by the Trio Pathétique in D minor for clarinet, bassoon and piano (also version for violin, cello and piano) his final chamber music score. It was composed in 1832 during Glinka’s trip to Italy and premièred in Milan with the composer at the piano. In four movements the opening Allegro moderato with its sunny disposition is played with vivacity followed by a lively and optimistic Scherzo. In truth the Allegro moderato feels a touch too fast and Scherzo didn’t really seem quick enough, making the movements too similar in tempi and lacking sufficient contrast. The Largo is reflective with a touch of yearning and the brief Finale: Allegro con spirito is fresh and is effervescently executed by the trio.

Next comes Balakirev’s Octet for piano, flute, oboe, horn, violin, viola, cello, double bass, Op. 3. Composed during the years 1853-55 with some advice from Glinka, Balakirev left the score unfinished, completing only the first movement, an Allegro molto. The music is splendid and highly melodic, and considerable, approaching fourteen minutes to play here. Elegant and tastefully performed with a lovely interplay of instruments I relish the disarming piano part and admire the reedy oboe but find rather less agreeable the sour sounding horn.

Ippolitov-Ivanov is remembered predominantly for a single score, the Caucasian Sketches for orchestra. His musical picture An Evening in Georgia for quintet for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and harp (or piano), Op. 71 is a late work which I believe retains traces of the influence of his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov. Composed in the mid-1920s the divertimento-like writing for harp and woodwind quartet, must have seemed extremely out of step with the progressive music of the time. A stylish, miniature score lasting around five minutes it reveals a distinct essence of the Middle East. For much of the duration the oboe is prominent with the harp which turns out to be an effective if unusual combination.

The final work on this reissue is Glazunov’s Saxophone Quartet in B flat major, Op. 109. It's a late piece from 1932 written during his years in Paris. With regard to its unusual scoring for soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones Glazunov wrote “the novelty of this work thrills me.” Dedicated to the Saxophone Quartet of the Republican Guard in Paris (led by Marcel Mule) it is in three movements. The opening Allegro is reasonably memorable being melodic and appealing. The second movement boasts a hymn-like theme with a set of five inventive variations. The Finale: Allegro moderato is vivacious and engaging yet overall there is too little variety of tone colour to make this a firm repertoire work.

Recorded on dates between 1975 and 1981 there is no information given about any of the recording locations. However, I was certainly satisfied with the sound quality which is reasonably consistent across each recording. On a minor point I found the liner notes basic but relatively helpful.

This highly desirable Melodiya reissue should prove fascinating for chamber music lovers in general not just those with a particular interest in Russian music.

Michael Cookson

Glinka: Vladimir Sokolov (clarinet), Sergey Krasavin (bassoon), Lyubov Timofeyeva (piano)
Balakirev: Valentin Zverev (flute), Anatoli Lyubimov (oboe), Boris Afanasyev (horn), Andrei Korsakov (violin), Michael Tolpogo (viola), Fyodor Lozanov (cello), Rifat Komanchov (bass), Alexei Nasedkin (piano)
Ippolitov-Ivanov: Valentin Zverev (flute), Anatoli Lyubimov (oboe), Vladimir Sokolov (clarinet), Sergey Krasavin (bassoon), Emilia Moskvitina (harp)
Glazunov: Lev Mikhailov (soprano saxophone), Alexander Oseichuk (alto saxophone), Yuri Vorontsov (tenor saxophone), Vladimir Yeryomin (baritone saxophone)