Mikhail Pletnev

Russian Overtures

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This is the debut recording of the Russian National Orchestra, the first privately-owned and privately-funded orchestra in Russia since before the Revolution of 1917. Deutsche Grammophon recorded this disc almost in the Great Hall of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow immediately after signing the orchestra as an exclusive act in November, 1993, sending the recording team of producer Christian Gansch and Tonmeister Rainer Maillard to tape the new orchestra in the record company's new 4D sound technology.

For this important international recording project Pletnev selected nine very well-known Russian overtures that all orchestral musicians in the country surely know cold. These include just about every important one except for Tchaikovsky's 1812.

Pletnev and the orchestra play these works with tremendous spirit. Since the Russian National Orchestra's international funding and promise of artistic independence served to attract the finest orchestral players in the country, they represent the Russian schools of playing the given instruments at their best: The horns have the singing quality but not the wobbly, watery sound that once seemed part of their tradition. The trumpets and trombones are bright and strong, with a crackle in their tone. An exotic eastern sound is part of their clarinets' allure, and the strings have Romantic exceptional accuracy but a rich, full romantic sound.

Pletnev's performances are usually outstanding, at times insightful. He holds back from running away with the tempo of Kabalevsky's Colas Breugnon Overture, although he cannot resist pressing forward a bit too much in the Ruslan and Ludmila Overture (where some slight woodwind imprecision shows he was slightly optimistic. His Prince Igor Overture is powerful and heroic, and the Prelude from Khovanschina features some of the most ravishing wind playing.

The sound is clear, with a nice resonant acoustic.