Evgeny Svetlanov

The Anthology of Russian Symphony Music: Alexander Borodin, Modest Mussorgsky, Anatoly Liadov

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The Anthology of Russian Symphony Music is a massive collection of Evgeny Svetlanov's recordings of much of the orchestral music written by Russian composers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This five-disc sets collects the conductor's recordings of orchestral music and orchestral transcriptions of Borodin, Mussorgsky, and Lyadov. None of the three were especially prolific, but Borodin is still well-known for his Second Symphony and Polovetsian Dances, and Mussorgsky is even better known for his Pictures at an Exhibition and Night on Bald Mountain, while Lyadov is remembered as the author of Kikimora and Baba-Yaga. The indefatigable Svetlanov had recorded almost everything he could by them in the course of his long career: all three of Borodin's symphonies, plus In the Steppes of Central Asia, the Petite Suite, and excerpts from Prince Igor; Mussorgsky's Pictures and Bald Mountain, as well as music from his operas Khovanshchina, Sorochinsky Fair, and Boris Godunov, both great song cycles, and even choruses and juvenilia; Lyadov's two tone poems, plus miniatures like Musical Snuff Box, and larger works like From the Apocalypse, along with everything else he wrote for orchestra. For the most part, the performances are superb. Svetlanov is masterful in portraying the epic and the lyrical in Borodin, and his take on the Second Symphony has rarely been bettered for verve and sweep. His accounts of Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina excerpts and Bald Mountain are tremendously effective, though his Pictures is marred by sloppy solos and an overly brutal brass section. His readings of Lyadov's tone poems are wonderfully characterful, particularly his sparkling Musical Snuff Box, though From the Apocalypse is perhaps too bombastic, even given the subject matter. The performances by the USSR Symphony Orchestra are generally acceptable except as noted above, although listeners not acclimated to Russian performance practices -- wide vibrato of the brass, pungent-toned winds, big-bottomed strings -- may find the playing takes some getting used to. The overall sound quality is acceptable, although, again, the Russian preference for monumentality over clarity may take some getting used to. As always in this series, documentation is thin; when and where the recordings were made is left to the imagination, as is the identity of the singers in Mussorgsky's song cycles.

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Pictures at an Exhibition
1 1:47
2 2:50
3 0:49
4 5:21
5 0:32
6 1:12
7 3:21
8 0:44
9 1:18
10 2:19
11 1:25
12 4:06
13 3:38
14 6:09
Songs and Dances of Death
15 4:23
16 4:49
17 4:31
18 5:21
19 4:11
20 5:17
21 10:58
blue highlight denotes track pick