LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Symphony No. 1 in E flat; Symphony No. 3 in A minor; Overture & Polovtsian March from Prince Igor
PERFORMER: State SO of Russia/Evgeny Svetlanov
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61674 2 DDD
Only two movements of Borodin’s small but perfectly formed Third Symphony exist, and these had to be completed by Alexander Glazunov, who also created the overture to the opera Prince Igor out of his recollections of the composer’s piano rendition of the piece (Borodin never wrote it down). Similarly, the ‘Polovtsian March’ from the same opera was completed and orchestrated by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. All of these, then, are fascinating examples of what one might term ‘communal composition’, a characteristic activity of the members of the Russian nationalist group known as ‘The Five’, which included both Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov.
Whoever was ultimately responsible for the musical ideas, they are invariably fresh and striking, and certainly benefit from the vivid performances they receive from the State Symphony Orchestra playing under Evgeny Svetlanov, who gives the music a strong rhythmic profile and shapes its melodic lines sensitively.
Ironically, it is the much earlier First Symphony, written in the 1860s, which Borodin did complete himself, that has its share of undistinguished material and an occasional uncertainty of direction. Admittedly, it was more or less an apprentice piece, and its less formal central movements are highly appealing. This recording captures the characteristically Russian instrumental timbres nicely. George Hall