Evgeny Svetlanov

Anton Arensky: Suite No. 3 (Variations); Fantasia "Marguerite Gautier"; Symphony operatic excerpts

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Vol. 3 in Evgeny Svetlanov's survey of Silver Age Russian music is, naturally enough, a third Arensky disc. The first volume had featured the same composer's two symphonies, plus his Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky, while the second included two of his suites for orchestra plus a suite from his ballet Egyptian Nights, so this one contains his third orchestral suite plus four other orchestral works. As before, Svetlanov is doing more than merely going through the motions; he seems to really believe in Arensky's music, and the performances he elicits from the State Academic Symphony Orchestra are richly textured, warmly polished, and deeply affectionate. The music here is not all top-drawer Arensky, but it all has its charms. Most effective is Suite No. 3 in C major, an orchestral transcription of his Suite No. 3 for two pianos. Svetlanov and the Moscow musicians capture the post-Tchaikovsky appeal of the faux-classical Menuet and the pseudo Chopin Nocturne in a performance that will persuade all but the hardest hearted listeners. Less effective, perhaps, are the remaining works: the Fantasia "Marguerite Gautier" -- a pro forma exercise in sonata form -- the three symphonic operatic excerpts -- colorful and evocative selections that sound not especially cogent out of context -- the Intermezzo for strings -- Arensky's faithful copy of Tchaikovsky copying Mendelssohn -- and the March in memory of General Alexander Suvorov, Russia's greatest military commander -- a pompous and bombastic work that makes the March Slav seem subtle by comparison. Recorded in stereo at some unrevealed date, the performances on this disc will be mandatory for those who cannot get enough of Russian Silver Age music.

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