I enjoy a great deal of the music that comes to us from Russian composers, and I've recently expanded my horizons to include some of the composers who today may be lesser known, but are no less important or excellent in the quality of their work.
Indeed, Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857) is widely considered to be the father of Russian music, and no less than Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) is quoted as having said, with regard to the famous Kamarinskaya composition, included on this CD, that the "Russian symphonic school is all in Kamarinskaya, just as the whole oak is contained in the acorn".
So, here we have a very worthwhile collection of Glinka's orchestral works, Kamarinskaya as well as a selection of other dance style works, with performances from the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra under the baton of several different conductors and recorded between 1982 and 1994. The recording consists of:
1, 2: Ruslan and Lyudmila, Act III, No. 15: Dances in Naina's Castle / Act IV, No. 20: Eastern Dances in the Black Sea Castle -- performance by Mark Ermler conducting the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, recorded in 1994.
3, 4: Dance for Violin and Orchestra and Dance for Oboe and Cello with Orchestra. Two pieces originally written for Glinka's opera A Life for the Tsar ("Ivan Susanin") but discarded and not used -- performances by Boris Demchenko conducting the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, with soloists Irina Lebedeva, Anatoly Lyubimov and Fedor Luzhanov, recorded in 1992.
5: Andante Cantabile and Rondo in D Minor, for Orchestra -- performance by Boris Demchenko conducting the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, recorded in 1992.
6: Majestic Polonaise on a Spanish Bolero Theme in F Major -- performance by Ilmar Lapins conducting the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, recorded in 1994.
7 - 9: Three dances from the opera A Life for the Tsar ("Ivan Susanin"), Act II: Valse, Krakowiak, and Mazurka -- performance by Vladimir Fedoseyev conducting the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, recorded in 1984.
10: Kamarinskaya, Fantasy on two Russian folksongs -- performance by Konstantin Ivanov conducting the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, recorded in 1982.
Recordings on this argo release are licensed from the original Russian recordings, and are very good quality. I also think that the performances are quite good, although admittedly I have not yet compared them to any other recordings of these works for comparison. The most well-known and recommendable alternatives, particularly for Kamarinskaya but also including several of the works on this recording, would be the following:
- Symphony on 2 Russian Themes -- Vassily Sinaisky conducting the BBC Philharmonic, recommended by Penguin.
- Life for the Tsar: Overture & Suite -- Loris Tjeknavorian conducting the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, also recommended by Penguin
I've ordered a copy of the second recording above, from ASV, and I'll post an update to this review as soon as I've had the opportunity to listen to it and compare it to the recording here.
As a final point, this release is listed on Amazon in more than one place. Check the following for the same recording to locate the most attractive price either from Amazon or from one of the third-party sellers here (either the earlier release under the Regis label, or the same argo release, both are identical):
- Kamarinskaya (recording on this page)
- Kamarinskaya / Orchestral Dances
- Kamarinskaya: Orchestral Dances
- Kamarinskaya: Orchestra Dances
Very enjoyable music from Mikhail Glinka, with excellent performances and very good recording quality.