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Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 – 1893)
Swan Lake suite from the Ballet (1876)
The Nutcracker suite from the Ballet (1892)
USSR Radio Symphony Orchestra/Evgeni Svetlanov.
No details supplied ADD
CDK CDKM 1002 [65.29]

This is the first disc that I have heard in the CDK series. According to the limited material supplied with this disc, CDK are re-issuing old Melodiya recordings at mid-price. The current releases include the Rococo Variations and Souvenir de Florence (Leningrad PO/Rozhdestvensky); Grieg Piano Works (Pletnev); Brahms and Dvořák Violin Concertos (Oistrakh/Kondrashin). All these performances are well known to collectors of this repertoire.

The current disc contains extended suites from The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. They are played by the USSR Radio SO, in the days before Perestroika. The outfit also pre-dated major changes in the orchestral infrastructure up of Russia – i.e. before many of the members of this orchestra were poached to form Pletnev’s Russian National Orchestra.

The disc is something of a period piece. The orchestra has a gorgeous string section, somewhat blaring brass and raw woodwinds. The original Melodiya recordings were also extremely exciting and this quality is here in abundance.

Svetlanov is a natural in this repertoire and his experience shines through very clearly. His long association with his orchestra provided English audiences with thrilling concerts when they appeared sporadically outside the USSR. I can predict that some collectors will be overjoyed at the reappearance of these ballet suites.

CDK has provided us with suites, which are a little more extended than usual. For example The Nutcracker suite contains the Pas de Deux from Act 2 as a separate piece. Strangely it is inserted before the end of the Danses caractéristiques and the start of the Waltz of the Flowers. The suite is beautifully played, and whilst not removing the DG recording with the Berlin Philharmonic and Rostropovich, the current issue is more ‘ethnic’, and will please many collectors.

The suite from Swan Lake is more the normal suite as specified by the composer. It is impossible to fault the performances except for a very unsteady harp in the Rose Adagio, where the top note of the glissando is not reached at all. This causes a shock when you are used to other versions. This really should have been retaken as it is so exposed.

Apart from this, I must say that I enjoyed this issue immensely and its appearance is the cause for rejoicing, particularly amongst those of us who enjoy these classic Russian recordings.

Is there any drawback at all? Well, yes. For some reason the whole disc only comes with two tracks, one for Swan Lake, and the other for The Nutcracker, although the back cover leads us to expect that each item of each suite is separately banded. It could be that the intermediate tracks are indexed, rather than separately tracked, but my player, in common with many other current players, lacks the facility to index through a disc. I would implore CDK to adopt tracking rather than indexing, if indeed that is what has been done.

What we need now is more of these recordings for our pleasure. How about Shostakovich’s The Execution of Stepan Razin Op.119 with Kondrashin. That really would be a gem.

John Phillips



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