Evgeny Svetlanov / USSR Symphony Orchestra

Rimsky-Korsakov: Overtures & Suites

(CD - Regis Records #1145)

Review by

Regis' Rimsky-Korsakov: Overtures and Suites is put together out of studio recordings made in Moscow in 1971 and 1985 by late Russian conductor Evgeny Svetlanov and the USSR Symphony Orchestra and issued on the Melodiya and Olympia imprints, respectively. Although Svetlanov's recording of Rimsky-Korsakov's Suite from Le Coq d'Or is included in its entirety, the other suites, those from Pan Voyevoda and The Snow Maiden, are heard only in excerpt form, as are some pieces from The Maid of Pskov. The obscure tone poem Dubinushka and the famous Russian Easter Overture round out the program.

The sound, while dated, is clear with a dry ambience that demonstrates little evidence of the hall where it was recorded. Naturally, one would want the recording in the first place because of the special affinity for Rimsky-Korsakov that Svetlanov and the USSR Symphony could potentially bring to the table. Alas, despite a glowing extract from an old Gramophone review on the back panel of this CD, most of this recording is rather underpowered and lacks the shimmering qualities of Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestrations. Svetlanov was much luckier with Rimsky-Korsakov's rewrites of Mussorgsky; his 1970s Melodiya recordings of that repertoire, collected as Mussorgsky: Without the Sun on BMG Classics, are vibrant, colorful, and exciting. Here it is no more than serviceable in expression, and mediocre in sound.

If there is a favorable aspect to this proceeding, it can be said that these are very stable performances of Rimsky-Korsakov's opera suites. The USSR Symphony plays them with nary a hair out of place, save for some out-of-tune piccolos in the "Tsar Dodon at the Queen of Shemakha's House" movement within the Suite from Le Coq d'Or. Nevertheless, compare the way the Suite from Le Coq d'Or ends here versus that of Igor Markevitch's 1959 recording of the same work for Deutsche Grammophon; whereas Markevitch's way of concluding the work is devastatingly gripping and dramatic, in this Svetlanov recording it just evaporates. In sum, Regis' Rimsky-Korsakov: Overtures and Suites is considerable only for those who are dedicated to the cause of collecting all of Svetlanov's recordings, and even they will be disappointed in the condensations of these suites, originally recorded in their complete form.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
1 04:50
Le Coq d'Or (The Golden Cockerel; Zolotoy petushok), concert suite for orchestra
2 11:08
3 04:40
4 07:53
5 06:22
The Snow Maiden (Snegurochka), suite for orchestra
6 03:02
7 02:00
8 03:33
Pan Voyevoda, suite for orchestra, Op. 59
9 04:31
10 06:25
11 08:04
12 14:21
blue highlight denotes track pick