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Explosive Classics
Various orchestras and conductors
rec. 1986-2016
CHANDOS CHAN10989 [82:04]

Having just heard Chandos' 80+ minute Flux (saxophone quartet) disc, along comes this novelty miscellany running to more than 82 minutes. It's minimally documented. What we are given is a meticulous listing of the tracks drawn from the label's existing catalogue established over a period dating back to the 1970s. None of the source discs here are older than 1987. It may deny us commentary but this is, after all, a disc for those who are out for a sonic sensation. OK, it's not Decca's vinyl generation Phase Four Stereo but it does showcase 19 tracks of orchestral (plus choir in some cases) rafter-shakers from a label long renowned for the excellence of its sound.

I must concede that there's a touch of the 1970s sound spectacular kipper-tied nonsense about this disc. In that sense the concept is old-fashioned. However, you need to look past that while conceding the guilty secret that a player at full blast can hit the spot. Chandos make no bones about their intentions and collude with a (largely male?) market who are up for the experience. The blurb refers to: "... exhilarating performances of some of the loudest orchestral pieces ever written ... resounding recordings ... turn up the volume of your hi-fi, move away any glass or crystal, make sure your neighbours are either out, deaf, or very good friends, ... and enjoy!"

Those picking this disc up will experience more than hi-fi bread and circuses. For a start, we get whole movements - not gobbets of music "ripped untimely" from their setting. In that sense this functions as a provocative and often unpredictable sampler of orchestral works by seventeen composers. It's a lively mix too and not just consciously calculated. We get more than lowest common denominator orchestral show-pieces.

We start with the snarl of the Infernal Dance from The Firebird recorded in lively and open sound and with plenty of perspective. It reminded me of the whooping impact of Dorati's LSO version on a budget price Contour LP which I enjoyed on very modest equipment. Then comes the groaning weight and swing of Prokofiev's Knights' Dance and Järvi's Shostakovich 8 Allegretto. We move to the 1990s for the heavy-biting thunder and stereo spread of Hickox's Messa da Requiem. The yelping and pattering mystery and breaking storm clouds of the same conductor's O Fortuna also makes its impact. Back to 1992 and Nielsen's Oriental Festival March from Aladdin. March 2014 brings us to Edward Gardner's first movement from Janáček's Sinfonietta. A shabby room in the slums from Bartók's 'shocker' The Miraculous Mandarin leads onwards, as if to keep us on our toes, to another rarity. This comes in the shape of Ginastera's Malambo from Estancia. Circenses from Feste Romane is a rowdy colour-fest from the outset,

Lutosławski's Intrada from his Concerto for Orchestra pounds away as if in tribute to Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra. The Great Gate of Kiev is imposingly thundered out by the Russian State SO under Valery Polyansky, a conductor we now rarely hear from. He used to be a frequently used regular with Chandos. As for Wagner, I would never have guessed Chandos would have gone for the almost operetta tambourine-crashing overture to Das Liebesverbot. This forms part of Chandos's deeply knit and beneficent relationship with Neeme Järvi. I would have guessed that they would have opted for The Ride of the Valkyries. It's a mark of the label's astute judgement that many of these tracks are not obvious choices. They do, however, go for the jugular in the case of the Grieg, Holst and Copland - the latter with John Wilson - but what's the harm? The last pair of tracks are Russian and from Glasgow/Dundee sessions in 1986-87. Khachaturian's Sabre Dance from Gayaneh rattles the windows, again courtesy of Järvi and the then SNO. It's gorgeously done in all its brash and garish finery. Järvi racks up the tempo and just as rapidly cools it. The second movement of Prokofiev's Scythian Suite also enriches the mix. While the suite has always had the reputation for loudness it has not found many recordings. Good that Chandos sign off with it.

This CD would serve as a good entry-point for anyone vaguely interested in classical music. It would suit the explorer wanting to dip into a showcase of scores with muscle, fireworks and volume rather than one of the multitude of sweetly simpering serenity discs. It helps that the track-list details the catalogue numbers of the excerpted discs so if something does catch your attention the route to the whole disc is laid out clearly.

The title is not wide of the mark … and we even escaped Tchaikovsky's 1812.
Rob Barnett

Contents List
Igor STRAVINSKY Infernal Dance No.8, Suite from the Ballet The Firebird [4:25]
Neeme Järvi
(CHAN 8783 - track 10)

Sergey PROKOFIEV Knights' Dance [6:26]
No.13 from the Ballet Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene 2
Dmitri Kitayenko
(CHAN 9322/23- track 13)

Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH Allegretto [6:35]
Second movement from Symphony No.8 in C minor, Op.65
Neeme Järvi
(CHAN 8757 - track 2)

Giuseppe VERDI Dies irae [2:08]; Tuba mirum [1:35]
Messa da Requiem
Richard Hickox
(CHAN 9490 - tracks 2-3)

Carl ORFF O fortuna [2:37]
No.1, 'Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi' from Carmina burana
Richard Hickox
(CHSA 5067 - track 1)

Carl NIELSEN Oriental Festival March [3:15]
No.11 from the Fairy Tale drama Aladdin, Act III
Gennady Rozhdestvensky
(CHAN 9135 - track 11)

Leos JANÁČEK Allegretto [2:07]
First movement from Sinfonietta
Edward Gardner
(CHSA 5142 - track 1)

Bela BARTÓK A shabby room in the slums [3:39]
No.1 from the Pantomime - The Miraculous Mandarin
Neeme Järvi
(CHAN 9029 - track 1)

Alberto GINASTERA Danza final. Malambo [3:36]
No.12 from the Ballet Estancia, Op.8
Juanjo Mena
(CHAN 10884 - track 18)

Ottorino RESPIGHI Circenses [4:33]
First movement from Feste romane, P 157
Yan Pascal Tortelier
(CHAN 8989 - track 9)

Witold LUTOSŁAWSKI Intrada [6:35]
First movement from Concerto for Orchestra
Edward Gardner
(CHSA 5082 - track 9)

Modest Petrovich MUSSORGSKY The Great Gate of Kiev [5:53]
No.10 from Pictures at an Exhibition
Orch. Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Valery Polyansky
(CHAN 9497 - track 19)

Richard WAGNER Overture to Das Liebesverbot [8:11]
Comic Opera in Two Act, WWV 38
Neeme Järvi
CHSA 5087 - track 1

Edvard GRIEG In the Hall of the Mountain King [2:19]
No.4 from Peer Gynt Suite No.1, Op.46
Vernon Handley
CHAN 8524 - track 4)

Gustav HOLST Mars, the Bringer of War [7:08]
First movement from the Suite The Planets, Op.32, H 125
Sir Andrew Davis
CHSA 5086 - track 10)

Aaron COPLAND Fanfare for the Common Man [4:01]
for Brass and Percussion
John Wilson
CHSA 5164 - track 1

Aram Il'yich KHACHATURIAN Sabre Dance [2:32]
No.1, Suite No.1 from the Ballet Gayaneh
Neeme Järvi
CHAN 8945 - track 5

Sergey PROKOFIEV The Enemy God and the Dance of the Spirits of Darkness [3:13]
Second movement, Scythian Suite, Op.20 from the Ballet Ala et Lolly
Neeme Järvi
CHAN 8584 - track 9



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