Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
DISC ONE [77.06]
Symphony No. 1, op. 1 in E minor
Symphony No. 2 'Antar', Op. 9
Capriccio espagnol, Op. 34
DISC TWO [79:38]
Symphony No. 3, op. 32 in C major - 1886 version
Russian Easter Festival, Op. 36 Overture
Sadko, Op. 5
Piano Concerto, in C sharp minor, Opus 30
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitri Kitajenko
Rec - Grieghallen, Bergen; 17-20 Feb 1993 (Symphony 1 & 2, Capriccio)
May 1993 (Antar, Russian Easter, Sadko, Piano Conc).
This two-disc set represents good value as it contains all three of the
symphonies of Rimsky-Korsakov together with the Piano Concerto and three
of his most popular orchestral pieces. Apart from Sheherazade, and perhaps
some of the suites from the operas, this represents as much of this composer's
works as the average record collector is likely to want. It is presented
in the slim-line duo format with an attractive designed cover. There are
useful notes by David Nice.
The first symphony is very clearly an early work as the designation Opus1
indicates and despite a later re-write it is very much a student work and
lacks the rhythmic vitality and tunefulness of most of his later works. However
it is given here as good a performance as I have heard.
'Antar', with its attractive oriental atmosphere, and recurring theme is
not so well known as it deserves and is played with considerable élan
here. 'Antar' is more accurately described as a symphonic suite rather than
as Rimsky-Korsakov's second symphony.
The third symphony, although a mature work, is rather academic in feeling
and lacks rhythmic excitement; in this work Svetlanov in his recording with
the USSR Academic Symphony Orchestra achieves more feeling especially in
the andante although the Olympia recording distorts slightly in the climaxes.
Geoffrey Tozer plays well in the delightful short, one movement, Piano Concerto
and achieves a good partnership with the Bergen orchestra. This is a case
where the brevity of the work is a disadvantage as it is too short to warrant
engaging a soloist for an orchestral concert, and fitting it in with another
short concertante piece makes planning a concert much more difficult.
The conductor also achieves lively results with Capriccio Espagnol; however
this is very much an orchestral showpiece and comparisons with some famous
recordings reinforce the impression that the Bergen Philharmonic is a competent
rather than great ensemble.
Similar remarks apply to the Russian Easter Festival Overture where the last
drop of exoticism is lacking. Sadko is a work which is seldom played these
days and is well executed here.
Chandos have achieved a good clear sound on these recordings but do not attain
the demonstration class they have often achieved in other cases.