Evgeny Svetlanov

The Anthology of Russian Symphonic Music: Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov

(CD - Svetlanov #570091/6)

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Beyond the ever-popular Scheherazade, Russian Easter Overture, and Capriccio Espagnol, not much of the Russian late Romantic master's orchestral music is well known. In some cases, lack of familiarity may denote a lack of quality; one could argue that Rimsky-Korsakov's First Symphony is a clear student effort and that overtures and excerpts from early operas such as The Maid of Pskov and Bojarynja Vera Shelonga are hardly characteristic of the mature composer. But while these objections have some carping validity, it has to be said that the majority of the works here are superb examples of Russian Silver Age music at its most colorful and evocative, and that anyone who enjoys the music of Borodin, Balakirev, and Glazunov will surely enjoy most of the works here, particularly the imaginative Antar symphonic suite, the glittering Suite from The Tale of Tsar Saltan, the atmospheric Suite from Snow Maiden, the shimmering music from The Golden Cockerel, and the magnificent Russian Overture. Performed with unwavering conviction if not always complete unanimity by Evgeny Svetlanov and the Academic Symphonic Orchestra and recorded in straightforward if occasionally harsh sound, this six-disc set may be too much Rimsky-Korsakov for the average listener. But those interested in the period or composer will have to hear every performance on every disc.

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