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Russia: Romance and Drama
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Gayaneh - Sabre Dance [2:32]
Spartacus - Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia [9:52]
Masquerade - Waltz [4:27]
Alexander BORODIN (1833-1887)
Prince Igor – Polovtsian Dances [11:14]
Mikhail GLINKA (1804-1857)
Ruslan and Lyudmila Overture, op.5 [5:23]
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
A Night on the Bare Mountain [12:14]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Lieutenant Kije
: Suite, op.60 IV Troika [3:15]
The Love for Three Oranges, op.33 March [1:45]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
The Gadfly: Suite, op.97a Folk Festival [2:51]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Marche Slave, op.31 [9:24]
1812 Overture, op.49 [15:14]
London Symphony Orchestra/Yuri Ahronovitch
rec. St Peter's, Morden, 1981. DDD
ALTO ALC1371 [79:07]

Alto affords us another chance to hear recordings made in the early 1980s. These Russian pops first came out on IMP Red Label PCD804 (also on MCA Classics) under the title of Russian Spectacular and before that in 1982 on Contour Red Label vinyl CC 7557. I am pleased to say that the Russian Spectacular line-up has been filled out with all but a Romeo and Juliet from IMP's Tchaikovsky Spectacular CD (PCD801).

A very pleasingly languid Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia is preceded by a Sabre Dance that lacks a shade in sheer oomph. The glorious trumpet solo (who he?) at the apex of the Adagio has you forgiving all. The gaudily grand Waltz from Masquerade is nicely plump but would benefit from the glare given to it by Tjeknavorian and ASV. The Troika from KijÚ has a wonderful abrasive brassy rasp and a jolly smile. Yuri Ahronovitch (1932-2002) and his accustomed UK 'partners', the London Symphony Orchestra, lend the famous short March from The Love for Three Oranges a weighty tread. His orchestra-only Polovtsian Dances streams along with tensile strength, sultry eminence and some scirocco-whirling woodwind playing. This Ruslan and Lyudmila races along, reminding us of Berlioz's Le Corsair on the way. I have heard more wildly pulsated and feral versions of A Night on the Bare Mountain but Ahronovitch gets the supernatural eerie message over to the listener. The Marche Slave and 1812 Overture are evenly paced, deliberate and avoid being garish. This comparative reserve may put some off but will please those who enjoy their Tchaikovsky seriously paced and well shaped. The very commanding crump of the ordnance towards the end of 1812 seems oddly grafted on to the sound-picture rather than more naturally resolved into all that orchestral activity. For a while this 1812 was coupled with Rozhdestvensky's Tchaikovsky on Regis.

After a brief hour or two in the sun for DG and a few other labels Ahronovitch - a pupil of Rakhlin and Sanderling in Leningrad - sank from view. When on song he was magnificent, as a Royal Festival Hall Tchaikovsky concert in September 1978 proved, but critical reception could be cool. From his Scandinavian years there are many intriguing concert broadcasts (Koppel Symphony 7, Lidholm Kontakion, Pettersson Symphony 16, Rosenberg Symphony 3, Holmboe Symphony 11 and Larsson's God in Disguise with Max von Sydow as narrator), His commercial recordings from that era include the 1985 Caprice CD of Gunnar de Frumerie’s opera Singoalla (CAP22023). Looking back to his time in the UK, we are reminded that Ahronovitch in 1979 teamed up with the LPO for an RCA LP (RL30372) of Taneyev's First Symphony. I hope that this LP has not been utterly lost in the general hubbub of reissues and that Alto will be able to track down the masters and produce a reissue on CD.

The notes are good - as you would expect from James Murray - and take the reader into some intriguing territory. This is especially true in the case of The Gadfly, the Folk Festival from which will have you smiling. It embraces unabashed echoes of Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien.

These recordings are by Bob Auger and John Boyden and have both fullness and brilliance leaning towards warmth.

This represents a healthy cross-section of Russian classical highlights. Alto sell at their usual bargain price and the lengthy duration of this disc permits no fewer than eleven of these lollipops and firecrackers.

Rob Barnett

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