I get the feeling that the music of Alexander Grechaninov (or Gretchaninov) has been neglected simply because it sounded too old-fashioned. Much of his own compositions were produced during the early 1900's, a time when music became much more progressive and diverse. Amidst the impressionistic, serial, and atonal sounds, Grechaninov's conservative Tchaikovsky-like melodies seemed to have alienated audiences who have already adapted to the music of Debussy, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, etc. Grechaninov may have been stuck in the past, but it might be a good thing after all. His favoring of Russian Romanticism gives him the power to create some stunning symphonies and choral works. As an owner of three Grechaninov CD's from Chandos (Passion Week, Symphony No. 1, Symphony No. 2), I am pleased to have even heard of the composer's lovely music. And now that I've purchased this particular one as well, I can sit back and listen to two compositions that are unfortunately still underrated as of this moment.
The Third Symphony was created back in 1923 when popularity of Stravinsky and Prokofiev (with their atonal, neo-classical works) became the norm. The symphony itself is almost the exact opposite, since it's filled with traditional orchestrations and Late-Romantic melodies. It's also conservatively structured with four movements. Admittedly, it isn't exactly a superb work of art: climaxes are relatively flat, and some orchestrations sound unoriginal (as if they're borrowed from Borodin or even Rimsky-Korsakov). But overall, it's an enjoyable piece, and it's just as good as the composer's first two symphonies.
Kvalite Boga (Praise the Lord) is the highlight of this CD. Grechaninov has been generally known for his choral compositions (Passion Week is a good reason why), and this one proves that he had some genuine artistic qualities for the voice. It's a 30-minute piece, and it features many hypnotic moments (especially the second movement). It has quickly become one of my favorite choral compositions.
As usual, Chandos has done an exquisite job with the excellent sound quality of these two recordings. Valery Polyansky conducts the Russian State Symphony Orchestra and Russian State Symphonic Capella with clear control and steady momentum throughout both pieces. He is very direct with the music, though he also stresses lyricism in a few occasions. The orchestra and choir sound marvelous, while the booklet offers a few informative details about the composer's life and his two compositions featured in this CD.
Grade: 9.7 out of 10