Vernon Handley

Russian Spectacular

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Previously released in 2000 at a playing time of 64 minutes, this 2007 reissue of EMI's Russian Spectacular in the Classics for Pleasure series clocks in at just over 82 minutes and offers considerably more music at a reduced price than it did at the midline, thanks to the addition of Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky's Hamlet -- Fantasy Overture, Op. 67. This 1974 performance by Vernon Handley and the London Philharmonic Orchestra may not be the most riveting rendition of the piece available, and the music may not be especially Russian in character; but why quibble over such a substantial bonus track? Besides, the rest of the program, which Handley recorded with the Hallé Orchestra in 1988, features some of the most famous nineteenth century classics by major Russian composers, and the performances are quite exciting and colorful, with surprisingly good audio for an early digital recording. With such favorites as Mikhail Glinka's Russlan and Ludmilla Overture, Modest Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio espagnol, and Alexander Borodin's In the Steppes of Central Asia, to name only a few of the popular works included here, and with fairly thorough liner notes, this is a terrific budget package that belongs in any beginner's collection and it may even satisfy more experienced listeners.

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