WORKS: The Enchanted Kingdom
PERFORMER: Rimsky-Korsakov: The Golden Cockerel Suite; Liadov: Baba-Yaga; The Enchanted Lake; Kikimora; N Tcherepnin: The Distant Princess; The Enchanted Kingdom; Russian National Orchestra/ Mikhail Pletnev
CATALOGUE NO: 447 084-2 DDD
This collection of exotica written in the fantastic Russian fairy-tale tradition benefits from the superior tone and ensemble of an orchestra founded as recently as 1990. With silky strings and characteristically Russian wind, its virtuoso approach and the detail of Pletnev’s interpretations show the music’s hyper-refinement and fastidious use of colour to advantage.
The great rarities here are the pieces by the composer and conductor Nicolai Tcherepnin (1873-1945), a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov. His languid La princesse lointaine derives from a verse play by Edmond Rostand about a knight dreaming of an oriental princess, while Le royaume enchanté depicts the magical kingdom of Kashchey – stamping ground also of Stravinsky’s contemporaneous Firebird. With Tchaikovskian clarity, and heady harmonies akin to Scriabin, the minuteness of Tcherepnin’s writing marks him as a Fabergé in sound, though the three orchestral miniatures by Anatol Liadov (another Rimsky pupil) are scarcely less remarkable in deploying sizeable forces with exquisite delicacy.
Amidst all these epicurean sweetmeats, the suite drawn from Rimsky-Korsakov’s satirical final opera seems plainer fare than usual, though its glittery brilliance registers keenly in the recording’s wide range of colour and dynamics.