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Suite De Concert / Fantasy on Russian Themes

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Audio CD, October 28, 2008
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Rimsky-Korsakov's Fantasy on Russian Themes is less well known than the work it led to. Pleased with the popular response to the piece, the composer set about doing another on Spanish themes, showing off the entire orchestra's capabilities instead of simply a violin soloist. The result was the Capriccio espagnol, and it has overshadowed its older sibling ever since its creation. But the Russian folk-flavored Fantasy has its own pleasures to offer, including a refined orchestral palette, strong part-writing, attractive themes, and a subtler structure than this kind of occasional music usually displays. It really deserves more play than it receives.

These are good, stylish performances, with Järvi at his most focused, and Mordkovitch offering a mix of elegance and edge. I personally prefer the bigger tone and richer drama that David Oistrakh mines in the Suite, especially when accompanied by Kurt Sanderling (Brilliant Classics 92609), though Nicolai Malko's faster tempos may be to some tastes (EMI Classics 14712). All three are in any case superior to the drearily bland affair on Ondine 959 that features Pekka Kuusisto with Ashkenazy leading the Helsinki Philharmonic. As for the Fantasy, the only real competition comes from Nathan Milstein on EMI Classics 64830--and that is real competition. But it's part of a relatively expensive six-CD set in analog sound, and I'm not impressed with either the conducting or the orchestra.

A composer of very Russian inspiration, Taneyev all his life was dogged by claims that his music sounded German, because many of his contemporaries bought into the nationalist myth that all musical learning was, in fact, German. He was even referred to as the "Russian Brahms," despite heartily loathing the Hamburg-born composer's music and methods. It was Taneyev's formidable knowledge of counterpoint (exemplified by his textbook, Invertible Counterpoint in Strict Style) coupled with his Beethoven-like reliance upon finding every conceivable variant of his themes before writing a work that led to this erroneous conclusion.

But when Taneyev sought inspiration from abroad, he turned, like so many of his compatriots, to France. The Suite de concert is as much an example of this as Glazunov's Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. It recalls not only the entertaining mix in the Piano Concerto No. 2 of Saint-Saëns that one wag referred to as beginning in Bach and ending with Offenbach, but to the more profound embodiment of similar embracing contrasts in the music of Franck. The surface of the Suite is amiable and suave, with an emphasis on tone that is not especially surprising, given its dedicatee, Leopold Auer. But Taneyev plays as creatively with form as he ever did; and the piece never goes where it's expected, as ever is the case in his best work.

The stereo engineering is top-notch, clear and transparent, with good presence. The liner notes are competent. In short, I think Järvi and Mordkovitch provide the best versions of both works in modern sound, and give the archival material a run for the money. Not that I'm about to ditch my copies of Oistrakh or Milstein, you understand. -- Fanfare Archive, Barry Brenesal, May/June 2009

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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
  1. Fantasia on 2 Russian Themes, Op. 33: I. Allegro moderato - Tranquillo - 7:31$0.99  Buy MP3 
  2. Fantasia on 2 Russian Themes, Op. 33: II. Lento - 3:15$0.99  Buy MP3 
  3. Fantasia on 2 Russian Themes, Op. 33: III. Allegro animato 6:49$0.99  Buy MP3 
  4. Suite de concert, Op. 28: I. Praeludium: Grave 7:52$0.99  Buy MP3 
  5. Suite de concert, Op. 28: II. Gavotte: Allegro moderato 5:34$0.99  Buy MP3 
  6. Suite de concert, Op. 28: III. Marchen (Tale): Andantino 9:51Album Only
  7. Suite de concert, Op. 28: IV. Theme and Variations 1:34$0.99  Buy MP3 
  8. Suite de concert, Op. 28: IV. Variation 1: Allegro moderato 1:17$0.99  Buy MP3 
  9. Suite de concert, Op. 28: IV. Variation 2: Allegro con energico 1:41$0.99  Buy MP3 
10. Suite de concert, Op. 28: IV. Variation 3: Tempo di valse 2:15$0.99  Buy MP3 
11. Suite de concert, Op. 28: IV. Variation 4: Fuga doppia 1:56$0.99  Buy MP3 
12. Suite de concert, Op. 28: IV. Variation 5: Presto scherzando0:55$0.99  Buy MP3 
13. Suite de concert, Op. 28: IV. Variation 6: Tempo di mazurka - Allegro con fuoco 1:36$0.99  Buy MP3 
14. Suite de concert, Op. 28: IV. Final Variation and Coda 4:51$0.99  Buy MP3 
15. Suite de concert, Op. 28: V. Tarantella: Presto 7:48$0.99  Buy MP3 

Product Details

  • Orchestra: Royal Scottish National Orchestra
  • Composer: Rimsky-Korsakov
  • Audio CD (October 28, 2008)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Chandos
  • ASIN: B001FENY7Q
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,985 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Patrick W. Crabtree VINE VOICE on February 9, 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I sincerely wish we could get more of Taneyev (b. 1856, d. 1915 -- the cover notes have his birth date wrong, showing him to be born in 1889 which would make him only 26 years old at his death!). He was a student of Tchaikovsky and aligned himself with the conservative Moscow school of musical composition - thus his approach to Classical Music clearly contained the earlier German elements of overall ambiance but his music is still definitively Russian.

First, the Rimsky-Korsakov work on this CD (Fantasy on Russian Themes, op. 33) is very reminiscent of Scheherazade and parallels the wonderful ambiance of the period Russian Folk music. It runs for a total of 17:28 and pairs up quite aptly with the Taneyev suite.

Taneyev was associated with several notable Russian writers of his day including Ivan Turgenev, author of Fathers and Sons, and one can practically visualize these fascinating accounts of the Russian people emanating directly from Taneyev's music. Sergei Rachmaninoff also studied under the tutelage of the renowned teacher, Taneyev.

The Suite de Concert, op. 28 is masterful. The music is some of the most moving that I've ever heard. This composition is forty-seven minutes of pure Russian atmosphere. If you're looking for terrific background music for reading War and Peace, this is it. I can hardly find the words to express my delight in its sweeping essence. The occasional interplay between violin and oboe are extraordinary and particularly emotive.
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