Thursday, 13 February 2014

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, February 2014)

Conducts Russian Composers
Brilliant Classics 9271 (3CDs) / ****1/2

The name of Evgeny Svetlanov (1928-2002) is legendary among lovers of Russian music. From 1965 to 2000 he was the Principal Conductor of the USSR State Symphony Orchestra, making over 300 recordings, before being summarily dismissed for “spending too much time away in the West”. In the byways of the Russian romantic repertoire, he was a peerless proselytiser as these three discs demonstrate.

The major symphonies here are rarities, including Balakirev’s expansive First Symphony, a masterpiece in harnessing folk song and dance elements to greatest effect. Almost as Slavic is Borodin’s First Symphony, longer and less earthy than the famous Second Symphony (not included here), and the incomplete Third Symphony in two movements.

There are two colourful orchestra suites from Rimsky-Korsakov operas (The Snow Maiden and Pan Voyevoda) and a whole disc of Glazunov short and melodious works. These performances from the 1960s to 1980s licensed by the State Radio and Television have a lushness of sound missing in those strident Melodiya recordings from the same period. Recommended listening.

BBC Concert Orchestra / Steven Mercurio
Decca 478 5340 / ****1/2

Love songs are the lifeblood and raison d’etre of many a tenor, and here is a handy compilation of the best loved numbers. Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja fearlessly enters into The Three Tenors and Andrea Bocelli crossover territory and fares better than most. One would rather listen to his take on Francesco Sartori’s Con Te Partiro (Time To Say Goodbye), Ennio Morricone’s Cinema Paradiso or Lucio Dalla’s Caruso, for example. His richness and breadth of tone is far more ingratiating than Bocelli’s thin and grating voice, which have almost become synonymous with this genre.  

His accented English needs getting used to, as in Rolf Lovland’s You Raise Me Up, but that is a minor quibble. Perennial favourites like Leoncavallo’s La Mattinata, Gastaldon’s Musica Proibita, di Capua’s O Sole Mio and Velasquez’s Besame Mucho get five star treatment here. There are adaptations of melodies by Rodrigo, Tchaikovsky and Chopin which also sound idiomatic. All in all, an enjoyable 70 minutes of basking in tenor sunshine. 

No comments: