London Conchord Ensemble

St. Petersburg

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St. Petersburg, the title of this Orchid album featuring members of the London Conchord [sic] Ensemble, not only represents the city in which its program's four compositions were completed, but the passing of the Russian chamber music legacy through four generations of composers. The passing of the torch begins with Mikhail Glinka's D minor "Trio pathétique" for clarinet, bassoon, and piano, then Balakirev's Op. 3 Octet, to Glazunov's A major String Quintet, and finally to the Piano Trio No. 1 of Shostakovich. While this sort of musical lineage is historically fascinating, the quality of the literature chosen for this disc is at times less than ideal. In all cases, these are examples of early works for each composer. Glinka, in fact, sounds more like an Italian opera composer than the Russian giant that he was to become, and even Shostakovich sounds more firmly rooted in the Romantic era. As to the performances themselves, they are equally unimpressive. Intonation among the string players in particular is inconsistent, particularly in the extensive octave passages heard in the Shostakovich. While some mediocre literature can be brought to life by an exhilarating, passionate performance, that is also not to be found on this album whose tempos and dynamics trend toward the middle instead of provide exciting contrasts. Listeners who are intrigued by the historical aspect of the program or who hunger for infrequently played chamber works may still find value in this album; for the rest, there's little excitement to be found here.

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