WORKS: Rachmaninov: The Bells; plus orchestral works by Glazunov, Musorgsky & Shostakovich
PERFORMER: Lyubov Petrova (soprano), Andrei Popov (tenor), Sergei Leiferkus (baritone), Wen-Sinn Yang (cello); Moscow State Chamber Choir; Russian National Orchestra/José Serebrier
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 68025-5
A dazzling curtain-raiser is the best reason for hearing this disc. José Serebrier likes to be known as Stokowski’s natural heir, and listening to at least two of the works in this closing concert of Moscow’s First International Rostropovich Festival, you realise why he has his admirers.
Only a top-notch orchestral trainer would turn in a Shostakovich Festival Overture quite as articulate and handsome-sounding as this. I don’t recognise the brilliant fanfarers as the brass of the not always first-rate Russian National Orchestra; the breezy galop that follows is as crisp and focused as you’re ever likely to hear.
Low colours and lurid touches inform Stokowski’s orchestration of the Entr’acte from Musorgsky’s Khovanshchina, though Serebrier’s own arrangement of the Rachmaninov Vocalise is too fussy and a little bit over-urged at times.
If the main masterpiece on this disc, Rachmaninov’s The Bells, fails to fully deliver it may be because the Moscow State Chamber Choir’s sound seems underwhelming and recessed. It hardly compares with the wall of choral sound in the first outbursts of the wedding and alarm bell movements we get from Ashkenazy’s or Kondrashin’s forces; and the texts aren’t crisply delivered enough to compensate.
Trombones make some amends for the lack of heft, and the soloists are high quality, if not ideal. It’s a pity the Poe/Balmont texts aren’t included in the booklet, and good though Serebrier’s note is, we learn nothing about the perfectly fine cellist in Glazunov’s Chant du menestrel, Wen-Sinn Yang. David Nice