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Rachmaninov: The Miserly Knight

Sergei Rachmaninov , Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra Audio CD

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1. Intro - Gothenburg SO/Neeme Jarvi
2. Scene 1: In The Castle - Sergei Larin/Anatoli Kotscherga/Ian Caley
3. Scene 2: In A Cellar - Sergei Aleksashkin
4. Scene 3: In The Palace - Sergei Larin/Vladimir Chernov/Sergei Aleksashkin

Product Description

DGG 453454 2; DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON - Germania;

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Generally very good performances 25 July 2010
By G.D. - Published on Amazon.com
The Miserly Knight is probably Rachmaninov's best opera. It is based on one of Pushkin's four short tragedies (written in the 1830s) - the other ones had already been set by other composers - and was premiered in 1906. Despite the obvious quality of the music, it isn't really among Rachmaninov's very strongest works, and it hasn't exactly helped its performance history that the libretto is at least borderline anti-Semitic. Still, there have been several widely recognized recordings, and although I am not, to be honest, really familiar with the alternatives, the one at hand can be firmly recommended if with a few minor caveats.

The music is gloomy (appropriate for the darkly fatalistic and darkly dramatic story) and obviously inspired by Wagner, especially in the orchestral writing and the use of leitmotifs. The darkness isn't exactly alleviated by the fact that all five soloists are male - in addition, Sergei Aleksashkin's bass-baritone is particularly dark (though able to vary the colors impressively). He is an excellent singer, however, and is well supported, especially by Sergei Larin, though I could possibly have asked for a little more variety and subtlety in some of the singing.

The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra plays very well (in particular the brass), and Järvi has a good sense of the idiom. Even so, the performances strike me as just a tad to Tchaikovskian (appropriate for Aleko, but a little more questionable here) and - at the same time - even a tad uninvolved at times. Still, there is much here to impress, and the sound quality is very good though a little reverberant. The performance is overall strongly recommended, but I am in no position to tell whether it's the best one out there - and I could, if I were nitpicky, possibly imagine that things could work very well if done a little differently.
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