Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / Ole Schmidt

Borodin: Prince Igor Excerpts; Symphony No. 2; In the Steppes of Central Asia

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Alexander Borodin was one of the members (and perhaps the laziest one) of the so-called "Russian Five," a group of composers who set out to create a new Russian musical idiom. With the exception of Balakirev, the remaining members of the group were not musicians by trade. Borodin was an accomplished chemist, a job that consumed virtually all of his time. As such, his compositions were slow in coming and many of them, particularly the opera Prince Igor, remained incomplete at the time of his death. The surviving members plus Glazunov took it upon themselves to complete the opera. On this album, in fact, we hear the overture that was actually completed (some would say composed) by Glazunov. Other works on the album are more authoritatively in Borodin's own hand. A note to listeners: In the Steppes of Central Asia is not, as the jacket would have you believe, from Prince Igor. Performing Borodin's works is the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Ole Schmidt. The execution of the Prince Igor excerpts and Steppes is generally sufficient, but nothing spectacular. There are a number of surprising balance problems when the brass obliterate the rest of the orchestra, and at times the lower strings are all but inaudible. The Second Symphony, however, is a different story. Here, the RPO truly shines and delivers a stunningly energetic and passionate reading of this seldom-heard piece. The first movement is filled with aggressive intensity and, by contrast, the third movement is entirely tender and warm.

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