An appealing collection of short Russian orchestral works in recordings dating from 1965 to 1990. The performances are idiomatic, with plangent brass and bassoons, while Svetlanov unfolds the structure of each piece with a sure and certain hand. Many rewarding discoveries among the rarer pieces, including Glazunov’s surprisingly powerful Lyrical Poem, two miniatures by the Czech-born Eduard Nápravník, an influential figure in St Petersburg’s musical life for more than fifty years, and Balakirev’s suite of Chopin arrangements.
Couplings of the two Balakirev symphonies are not uncommon. Naxos and Hyperion are examples although no doubt there are others. This set, which in terms of musical playing time is amongst the most generous in the BMG-Melodiya series, includes both symphonies and six other works, three tone poems and three overtures. Balakirev's dedication to folk music and the exotic orient is well known. It puts in an appearance to greater or lesser extents in all these works.
Tikhon Nikolayevich Khrennikov (1913–2007) was a Russian and Soviet composer, pianist, and leader of the Union of Soviet Composers, who was also known for his political activities. He wrote three symphonies, four piano concertos, two violin concertos, two cello concertos, operas, operettas, ballets, chamber music, incidental music and film music.
"He will quickly be forgotten." That was Rimsky-Korsakov's unkind but not inaccurate prediction made shortly after his pupil Anton Arensky's death from tuberculosis at the age of 35. His prediction was unkind in the sense that Arensky's stylish and lyrical works rank with those of Liadov, Kalinnikov, and Ippolitov-Ivanov for melodic charm and orchestral color. But his prediction was accurate to the extent that there have been few performances or recordings of Arensky's music in the century since his death in 1906. Indeed, aside from this undated recording with Evgeny Svetlanov leading the Academic Symphony Orchestra, there has apparently been only one other recording of Arensky's symphonies in the past half century – Valery Polyansky's on Chandos – and none before that at all. For die-hard fans of Russian music, this state of affairs is a shame because as Svetlanov's performances demonstrate, Arensky's symphonies deserve to be heard.