Misha Rachlevsky / Chamber Orchestra Kremlin

Rodion Shchedrin: Carmen Suite; Russian Photographs; Glorification

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A witty ballet for the Bolshoi, Rodion Shchedrin's Carmen Suite for string orchestra and percussion (1967) certainly must rank as one of his most creative and satisfying experiments. Shchedrin's boldly overhauled orchestration, clever alterations of rhythmic details, and occasional humorous touches -- such as the rude insertion of the Farandole from L'Arl├ęsienne, or the sudden starts and stops in the Toreador Song -- contribute to an iconoclastic but highly entertaining retelling of Bizet's opera. Though Shchedrin's version offended many purists, it found no less a defender than Shostakovich, who regarded it as a model of the art of transcription and a brilliant celebration of the dance. Receiving their world-premiere recordings here, Russian Photographs (1994) and Velicanie (1995) are both scored for strings and are thus convenient companion pieces to Carmen. However, Shchedrin's tone is much more somber in these later works, and the ironic touches in them only emphasize their dominant themes of tragedy or impending catastrophe. The Kremlin Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Misha Rachlevsky, plays with great vigor and sharp precision in Carmen, though it is much less distinctive and even a little muted in the last two works. Claves provides fine sound with natural resonance.

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