Fans of nineteenth century Russian music will greatly appreciate the return of Evgeny Svetlanov's Anthology of Russian Symphonic Music. Originally recorded in the '60s and '70s for Melodiya, Svetlanov's survey of the repertoire included not only the standard works of Tchaikovsky, Borodin, Mussorgsky, and their ilk, but also the far less-well-known works of Kalinnikov, Lyapunov, and, last but not least, Anton Arensky. This disc contains three of Arensky's suites for orchestra: the five-movement Suite in G minor, the five-movement Suite "Silhouettes" (an arrangement for orchestra of his Second Suite for two pianos), and the seven-movement suite from his ballet Egyptian Nights.
Arensky's suites are not among the front-rank works of Russian symphonic music. Their melodies are light, their scoring is bright, their harmonies are sweet, and their rhythms are infectious. But no musical or emotional depths are plumbed. Imagine Tchaikovsky's Suites for orchestra but with sparkle rather than brilliance and liveliness rather than inspiration and you'll have some idea of what to expect. Svetlanov and the State Academy Symphony Orchestra deliver honest but stylish performances that stress the works' charms -- the delightful bells in "Dance of the Ghazies," for example, and the tender clarinet and cello melodies of the "Dance of Jewish Girls" from Egyptian Nights -- without forcing the music to become more than it is. Taped in stereo, these undated recordings are remarkably colorful and present.