Does anyone remember Russian nationalism? The Russians do: but then, they are the people who revere Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, and even Josef Stalin, the people whose music of the late Imperial period embodied Russian nationalism. In this disc of music by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov by Evgeny Svetlanov and the USSR Symphony Orchestra, the music of the late Imperial age vividly comes to life. Three of the four works are Russian works: the Sinfonietta on Russian Themes and the Overture on Russian Themes both take music familiar to anyone who knows Russian folk songs while the Russian Easter Overture takes a whole time of year and sets it to music. In these powerful and persuasive performances, the soulful beauty and the fearsome strength of Russian nationalism are made audible. Even the rare fourth piece, Rimsky-Korsakov's prelude and cantata Iz Gomera, his homage to Homer, still sounds decidedly Russian for all its pseudo-Wagnerian sonorities and sensuality. Svetlanov and the USSR Symphony perform all the music with barbaric power coupled with a soupçon of civilized polish and the result is as fine a Russian nationalist disc as there is. Moscow Studio Archives' recordings from 1971 (in Iz Gomera) and 1985 (in everything else) is as real, honest, and true as anything from the USSR could ever be.
Review by James Leonard
|Sinfonietta on Russian Themes, for orchestra in A minor, Op. 31|