PERFORMER: Andreyev Imperial Russian Orchestra/Dmitri Hochlov
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 56819 2
If you feel deprived of plucked strings, BALALAIKA! is your answer: a 50-strong orchestra of them. This is a true survivor, snapped up by the producer while on another mission in St Petersburg.
The mainly tremolando playing is staggering, from zippy allegros to soft massed rustles as expressive as violins. Accordions, wind, bells even, provide contrast. Repertoire is straight out of the Johann Strauss era, a mix of light classical and synthetic folk, big on Tchaikovskian waltzes.
‘The Song of the Volga Boatmen’ makes a corny but awesome crescendo, and there are humorous ditties such as ‘My Husband Made Me Stoke Up a Steam Bath’, though the piece that made me laugh out loud was ‘Barynya’, which accelerates into some bizarre Russian rap and lunatic whistling.