28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This review is from: Symphonies 1 & 2 (Audio CD)
This is the best compilation of Balakirev's orchestral works, with both of his symphonies, symphonic poems Russia and Tamara, and an overture on Russian themes (a very common type of thing in Russian Romantic music). All of the pieces are played well; the conducting is acceptable. The recorded sound is VERY good. One thing that annoyed me was the essay in the booklet. It constantly compares Balakirev to Tchaikovsky, and Balakirev always comes out superior. Tchaikovsky does not deserve this! the booklet says Tchaikovsky's treatment of the Russian folk song "In the field stands a birch tree" in the overture is "tiresome", while Balakirev's is "more convincing". Balakirev's orchestration may sound more "colorful", but it is basically a straight transcription of the song for orchestra. Tchaikovsky adapted the song to his own needs for the finale of his Fourth Symphony, and it serves as a perfect prelude to the "Fate" motif which follows the variations on the folk song. Svetlanov does not give a very convincing performance of Tamara, the work really needs a good conductor to open it up and make it as exotic as the booklet says it is (the booklet says Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade is pallid by comparison. NEVER!! Scheherazade is a whole other world of sound, combining fear, exultation, beauty, etc., in Rimsky's sublime orchestration! In case you haven't heard it, do youself a big favor and buy Scherazade!!). Everything else is very well played and clearly presented. The First Symphony is gorgeous, and about as strong a case that can be is made for the Second. This is a very good compilation at a resonable price, and you will be satisfied with most of the music here.