I love Russian classical music. With the sole exception of Tchaikovsky, it's always a pleasure to listen to orchestral, choral, & operatic works created by Mussorgsky, Stravinsky, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, etc. However, I'm a bit saddened that not a lot of people know about the more underrated composers. If I utter the names Glazunov or Balakirev, then people probably won't know who I am referring to. It's really a tragedy, because these composers have created some marvelous music in the past. Alexander Grechaninov is one of those underrated composers who hasn't been getting any worldwide recognition since his death. I think it's because people have been comparing him to Tchaikovsky and Borodin. That shouldn't be necessary, because even though Grechaninov's music lacks perfect orchestration, they still bring a sense of delight and relaxation. Currently, I own Grechaninov's Passion Week, Symphony No. 1, and Symphony No. 2 (all three of which are from Chandos). I'm glad to have purchased all three of them, because every single composition on these CD's convey a certain Romantic beauty that you would normally find in Borodin and Glazunov's music.
This specific CD features the second symphony, as well as the premiere recording of Mass "Et in terra pax." The 40-minute long symphony is titled the "Pastoral Symphony," and while it isn't as programmatic as Beethoven's "Pastoral," it still has some rich and colorful textures that lie on the orchestrations. It is typically separated into four movements: Allegro, Andante, Scherzo, and Finale. The Mass "Et in terra pax" is a divine piece of work. It reminds me of Dvorak's Mass in D Major with its heavenly atmosphere. The only problem is that it's a bit too short; it's only twenty minutes long.
As usual, maestro Valery Polyansky has done a terrific job with the music. His lack of an ego really helps with the flow, which is just right. The Russian State Symphony Orchestra gives a fine performance with the second symphony, while the Russian State Symphonic Cappella is just superb with the Mass. Anatoly Obraztsov may not have a steady bass voice, but the intelligence in his voice is what makes the "Credo" in the Mass enjoyable. Sound quality from Chandos is, as always, a plus.