WORKS: Symphonies Nos 1-2 & No. 3 (orch. Glazunov)
PERFORMER: Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572786
It’s good to have Borodin’s Symphonies, which made such a vital contribution to the Russian orchestral repertoire, together on the same disc, and especially in such idiosyncratic interpretations as these. That such an accommodation is possible – and it’s been done before, with performances by Loris Tjeknavorian as well as an earlier Naxos release easily superseded by this one – is probably thanks to Schwarz’s winged way with the Second Symphony. Its usually leonine, masculine profile is slightly feminised here, and other conductors like Neeme Järvi and Gennady Rozhdestvensky linger more on atmosphere, but how the melodies all flow, with characterful contributions from first clarinet and horn.
The modernist touches in the First Symphony engage the listener in its outer movements too, though Schwarz doesn’t push too hard for coherence. This and Tchaikovsky’s Winter Daydreams were the first major symphonies to come out of Russia in the 1860s, and in both cases the ideas are stronger than their clothing. But Borodin’s Scherzo is a typically winsome Russian specimen. As with Tchaikovsky’s, the Andante is flooded with a long-spanning melody, which the Seattle cellos handle beautifully here. The two movements of the Third should be flagged as ‘realised by Glazunov and Rimsky-Korsakov’; but the world would be a poorer place without the pastoral-elegiac glow of the Moderato assai, and would Dave Brubeck’s 5/4 numbers exist without this Scherzo? Schwarz’s players take delight, and so do we. David Nice