Shchedrin: Carmen Suite; Russian Photographs; Glorification

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COMPOSERS: Shchedrin
LABELS: Claves
WORKS: Carmen Suite; Russian Photographs; Glorification
PERFORMER: Kremlin CO/Misha Rachlevsky
CATALOGUE NO: CD 50-2207
When the first recording of the complete Carmen ballet appeared in the late Sixties, critics spluttered over Shchedrin’s nerve at cutting and reordering Bizet’s score, and dishing it up for strings and percussion. A lot of post-modernist water has passed under the bridge since then, and the idea now seems quite tame, though I do wish that there weren’t quite so much use of massed side drums. Sometimes the tuned percussion throws the music straight into the pantomime or the big top, and sometimes there’s a predictable reliance on the strings for the more lyrical passages, such as the Micaëla/Don José duet. But on the whole, Shchedrin’s games keep the orchestra on its toes and the listener engaged in spotting the tunes: not much prospect of the latter in the two original works from the Nineties.

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The Russian Photographs are monochrome, with harmonies that thicken and clog, especially in the nostalgia of the two outer movements; and, in between, the intended satire of ‘Cockroaches throughout Moscow’ and ‘Stalin Cocktail’ is little more than vamp-till-ready with a few rude noises thrown in. Despite enthusiastic and tight playing, there’s little to be said for Glorification either: too many notes, too few of them memorable. Martin Cotton