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Cat. No. CHAN 241-29 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 2
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CHAN 241-29 - Balakirev: Symphonies Nos 1 & 2/ Piano Concerto/'King Lear'/In Bohemia/Tamara
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Available From: 10 October 2005
Admittedly of variable quality, the compositional output of Mily Balakirev includes symphonic poems, two symphonies, concertante works for piano and orchestra, and numerous solo piano pieces and songs. His importance as an influence on the development of a Russian national style in music has long been recognised, but much of his music awaits wider discovery and performance. Originating as early as 1864, the First Symphony was only finished in 1897, and when Balakirev conducted its first performance in 1898 it was to prove his last public appearance as conductor. The musical material is extremely simple but developed with remarkable resourcefulness. At the age of twenty-two Balakirev wrote incidental music for Shakespeare’s King Lear, and the Overture, which manages to combine strict sonata form, including introduction and epilogue, with a neat musical synopsis of the play, reveals a talent that has been said to equal that of the mature Beethoven in his music to Goethe’s Egmont. In Bohemia, which began life as an ‘Overture on Czech Themes’ in 1866 – 67, but whose revised and reorchestrated version dates from 1906, draws on popular songs that are slow and reflective, lively and merry, and rhythmically complex at a moderate tempo. The orchestra is among the largest Balakirev ever required.

The Second Symphony occupied Balakirev from 1900 to 1908. It offers another taut sonata form, rich in chromatic effects, in the first movement, while the Scherzo alla cosacca is one of his finest creations. The Piano Concerto in F sharp minor is the single movement that Balakirev completed of an intended larger work; dating from 1855 – 56, it is a long, virtuosic movement, classical in scope, which Balakirev performed for the first time at a university concert in 1856, his St Petersburg debut. Tamara, the first ideas for which came to Balakirev as early as 1867 but which was completed in 1882, is inspired by Lermontov’s poem of the same title. Balakirev’s masterpiece, it is one of the finest products of a cult of the oriental and exotic which was popular in the music of nineteenth-century Russia.

Sinaisky’s opening Largo [Symphony No. 1] is, to my mind, ideally paced and weighted so that it conveys an appropriate sense of awe and wonder… I was very impressed with this performance…
Fanfare on CHAN 9667 (Balakirev, Symphony No.1 etc.)

It is a warm and inventive score and has the benefit of sumptuous Chandos recording.
Classic FM Magazine on CHAN 9727 (Balakirev, Symphony No. 2 etc.)

The performances of all three works, with Howard Shelley the soloist in the concerto, are first class.
The Guardian on CHAN 9727 (Balakirev, Symphony No. 2 etc.)


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