Rimsky-Korsakov: Overtures: Sinfonietta on Russian Themes; Capriccio espagnol; Ivan the Terrible; The Tsar’s Bride; Legend, Op. 29; Neapolitan Song

COMPOSERS: Rimsky-Korsakov
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Rimsky-Korsakov
WORKS: Overtures: Sinfonietta on Russian Themes; Capriccio espagnol; Ivan the Terrible; The Tsar’s Bride; Legend, Op. 29; Neapolitan Song
PERFORMER: BBC Philharmonic/Vassily Sinaisky
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10424
This well-filled disc maintains the high standard Chandos established with Neeme Järvi’s legendary set of Rimsky opera suites. The catalogue doesn’t exactly need yet another Capriccio espagnol, but while Vassily Sinaisky begins with plenty of drive and whips up boisterous excitement in the dance episodes, the overall effect is mercifully less flashy and more atmospheric than many, with some fine playing in the soloists’ cadenzas in Scena e canto gitano. Rimsky again reflects the Russian fascination with Mediterranean ambience in the fairly minor rarity Neapolitan Song, which turns out to be Funiculì, Funicula yet again.

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Although, as the composer cheerfully acknowledged, Capriccio is a popular orchestral showpiece, it may lead listeners to his less familiar and more profoundly Russian pieces. Ivan the Terrible (aka The Maid of Pskov) was written literally across the table from his friend Musorgsky’s Boris Godunov, but depicts its lesser tragedy in more old-fashioned and colourful melodies, while the more mature Tsar’s Bride, again concerning that infamous ruler, thrills with the riding rhythms of Ivan’s rapacious followers, the oprichniki; Sinaisky takes it at a spacious but still exciting pace. The gentler but richly-hued aspects of Russian folkore in the tone-poem Legend, derived from Pushkin’s Russlan i Lyudmila, Sinaisky captures with sparkle and energy, likewise the dancing, lyrical Sinfonietta on Russian Themes. There are competitive versions of almost all these pieces, but this unites them in a well-recorded and enjoyable collection.