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Cat. No. CHAN 6613(2) Price: £9 No. of discs: 2
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CHAN 6613 - Rimsky-Korsakov: Symphonies
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Audio Sample

Available From: 20 July 2000
Rimsky-Korsakov’s First Symphony is an early work. It was begun by the untutored seventeen-year-old and, in 1865 when complete, was hailed by Cui as the first true Russian specimen of its kind. In 1884 it was revised and recast, by the now trained and best pupil of the Conservatory, as a repertoire piece for student and amateur orchestras. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Second Symphony was one of two works of instinctive genius that he wrote before going to the Conservatory in 1871 – the other being ‘Sadko’, Op. 5. After its revisions it was given the label of ‘symphonic suite’. His reasons lay in the use of ‘idée fixe’, and is not developed thematically, but used only in variations and paraphrases. The Third Symphony was heard only once in its original version in 1875. It was criticised for its lack of spontaneity and revised in 1886, at which point it lost excessive counterpoint and the orchestration was brightened.

Rimsky-Korsakov wrote his short Piano Concerto in 1883. The theme which provides all the material was a folksong suggested by Balakirev. The reverence for Liszt is immediately evident in the variations that follow – pure pastiche were it not for the skill involved in the transformations. Self-conscious virtuosity is kept to a minimum and there are pre-echoes of in the first five notes of the folk-song that Rimsky used and the Paganini Caprice that Rachmaninov was later to use in his famous Rhapsody.

The violin plays a central part in the ‘Capriccio espagnol’, with the composer’s new-found enthusiasm for the clarinet running a close second. The melodies come from the composer’s copy of a Spanish song-and-dance collection.

Rimsky-Korsakov succinctly summed up his aims for the ‘Russian Easter Overture’: to reproduce ‘the legendary and heathen side of the holiday, this transition from the gloomy and mysterious evening of Passion Saturday to the unbridled pagan-religious merry-making on the morn of Easter Sunday’. Without such textbook examples of brilliant orchestration, the garish sonorities of the next generation of composers would never have been possible.

Rimsky-Korsakov had hit on the right orchestral colours in ‘Sadko’, his tale of the Novgorod merchant and minstrel Sadko summoned by the sea-king to play for his underwater subjects. Although the composer claimed Balakirev and Dargomïzhsky as his guides, his own characteristic inspiration is well to the fore.

‘…can be recommended… The Piano Concerto is well played by Tozer… The sound is good.’

*****Performance *****Sound
BBC Music Magazine

‘…in Kitajenko’s warmly expressive reading, its [Symphony No. 2] structure is clarified, with well-sprung playing from the Bergen Orchestra, richly recorded in opulent digital sound.’
The Guardian


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