Rimsky-Korsakov: Overture and Suites from the Operas

Neeme Järvi

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Rimsky-Korsakov: Overture and Suites from the Operas Review

by C. Ryan Hill

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov is a composer remembered only for a handful of works, and among these the most popular are his folk-tale based Scheherazade and the Iberian-flavored Capriccio Espagnol. Much of his other work has, unfortunately, fallen by the wayside. Some of his victims are weaker compositions whose fate is deserved, but others are actually pieces that, although quite strong, have been forgotten nevertheless. A few of each are contained within this two-disc set that features conductor Neeme Järvi with the Scottish National Orchestra. A famous promoter of lesser-known works, Järvi draws concentrated and spirited performances from his Glasgow players. Chandos neatly packs these works, all of which are drawn from Rimsky-Korsakov's rather plentiful operatic output, into a tidy chronological order. This sequence allows for a fascinating sampling of the evolution of the composer's compositional style, beginning with the rather plain and bland Overture to May Night (1879). The expanded emotional envelope of the Suite from Snow Maiden, though, with its greater dramatic element and broader use of orchestral colors, is evidence of a steadily emerging composer. Järvi creates a spring-like, swinging, and carefree atmosphere in the avian second movement, but the familiar "Dance of the Tumblers" at the conclusion of the suite, taken at breakneck pace, exposes some ensemble problems. Still, the excitement is there, and the 1890 Suite from Mlada also proves to be enjoyable, with its majestic outer movements and energetic inner dances. Especially enjoyable are some of the balancing acts that Järvi employs to uncover details that frequently escape the ear. It is the Christmas Eve Suite, though, that showcases the mature Rimsky-Korsakov. In this work, the contrasts of atmosphere he (and Järvi) create from the shimmering and glistening "Christmas Night" to the relentless darkness of the "Witches Sabbath" and sprightly "Polonaise" are indicative of the brand of techniques he would later teach Stravinsky. The Tale of Tsar Saltan contains some great music in the wavy, stranded second movement, and Järvi compels a busy and buzzy rendition of the famous Flight of the Bumblebee that is drawn from the same work. Rimsky-Korsakov called The Invisible City of Kitezh his finest operatic work and, together with the Golden Cockerel, the suites drawn from these two works bring this Chandos set to a compelling finish. While not for everyone, these recordings, with good overall sound and thorough liner notes, make for an excellent stepping-stone for anyone wishing to acquaint themselves with the 15 operas of Rimsky-Korsakov.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
The Tale of Tsar Saltan (Skazka o Tsare Saltane), musical pictures (suite) for orchestra, Op. 57
1 Neeme Järvi 04:58 Amazon
2 Neeme Järvi 08:43 Amazon
3 Neeme Järvi 07:55 Amazon
4 Neeme Järvi 03:31 Amazon
The Tale of the Invisible City of Kitezh (Skaza o nevidimom grade Kitezhe), suite for orchestra
5 Neeme Järvi 04:58 Amazon
6 Neeme Järvi 03:12 Amazon
7 Neeme Järvi 04:34 Amazon
8 Neeme Järvi 11:57 Amazon
Le Coq d'Or (The Golden Cockerel; Zolotoy petushok), concert suite for orchestra
9 Neeme Järvi 10:33 Amazon
10 Neeme Järvi 03:46 Amazon
11 Neeme Järvi 07:15 Amazon
12 Neeme Järvi 06:18 Amazon
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