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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Competitively priced Russian orchestral fare, both familiar and unfamiliar, in excellent performances and sound quality, 27 Jan 2011
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This review is from: Various: Russian Overtures And Orchestral Works (Audio CD)
This attractive set from Newton Classics is a reissue of two separate albums that Pletnev recorded for Deutsche Grammophon back in the day; although there are, perhaps, slightly better versions in the catalogue of some of the more popular works here (the suite from `Le Coq' d'Or' by Rimsky-Korsakov, for example) the performances are all of a very high standard. What makes this so recommendable, however, are the more obscure pieces, some of which (as far as I am aware) have not been recorded previously or, at least, are not currently generally available on disc.

The two preludes by Nikolai Tcherepnin form a case in point. Father of Alexander Tcherepnin, whose music has received something of a recording boost over the past few years, Nikolai came to prominence during the Silver Age of Russian music; like some other composers of that period - Glazunov, Ippolitov-Ivanov and Gliere (in his earliest works at least) - Tcherepnin was something of an epigone; he was a product of the estimable teaching methods of the conservatories set up by the Rubinstein brothers and heavily reliant on the models provided by composers of the previous generation, such as Rimsky-Korsakov, and the musical subjects that had inspired them. Although his ballet, `Le Pavillon d'Armide' reflects a certain French influence, it is the fairy-tale world of Russian legends that inspired the two works here. And very lovely and atmospheric they are too - rather more expansive than the similar works here by Liadov (though not far removed in idiom; compare the murmuring opening of `The Enchanted Kingdom' with `The Enchanted Lake'), they are beautifully orchestrated with a palette of instrumental colours that are well deployed in evoking their legendary subject matter. The actual melodic material, while attractive, is not of the quality that lingers in the mind for long afterwards but they are undemanding and a quite delightful way to while away twenty minutes or so.

The three reasonably popular works by Liadov are more familiar fare on disc; concise miniatures that glitter, as Gerald Abraham wrote, with the "promise of what might have been" had Liadov proved less dilatory and more productive, they receive sympathetic performances here that bring out the highly-polished grotesquerie of `Kikimora' and `Baba Yaga' and capture the haunting stillness of `The Enchanted Lake' (for my money, Liadov's masterpiece). Of the overtures, the Tchaikovsky piece is a real rarity and a product of his student years: it is as tunefully proficient as it is unremarkable, if I am honest, with any promise of the master that was to come relying mainly on the listener's hindsight but it is agreeable enough and useful to have on disc if you are a Tchaikovsky completist. A good deal of the contents of the first disc maintains the upbeat manner of the `Russlan and Ludmila' overture that opens the selection, Shostakovich and Glazunov providing festive occasional works and Kabalevsky's overture to `Colas Breugnon' offering a similarly positive and tuneful sound world. The Kabalevsky was a popular concert piece during the Soviet era and is comparatively well-known in the West but the prelude to Prokofiev's `Semyon Kotko' is far less familiar; it is rather slight in duration but the contrast in mood is welcome, as it is in the Borodin, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov pieces here.

The recorded sound, as I say, is very good - pristine even at times, as I jotted down in my listening notes; that of the second disc struck me as marginally warmer, with an acoustic less dry than in the disc of overtures, which quality suits the tone painting of the works recorded here admirably. There is a shortish but useful liner note by David Gutman.

All in all, this reissue is a very welcome addition to the catalogues, unique in some of its repertoire and priced at a level that makes it a real bargain even if you do already own duplicate recordings of some of the more familiar fare.

Warmly recommended.
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Various: Russian Overtures And Orchestral Works
Various: Russian Overtures And Orchestral Works by Russian National Orchestra (Audio CD - 2011)
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