In 1996, Mr. Robert Stumpf II alluded to this very disc in a ClassicalNet review and found it lacking. Since that time, these pieces have had very little exposure. The Kalinnikov has been treated very well on BIS, and Glazunov has gotten attention from the seriously underrated Jose Serebrier. Still, it's not like ether composer is glutting the market. Neeme Järvi seemed to do just that in the 80's and 90's though, conducting everything in sight regardless of importance. He remains one of my musical idols because of his great work here in Detroit, but in retrospect his career was probably a bit of overkill where recordings were concerned.
That said, this disc is really quite fine despite not containing anything musically earth-shattering. Reading Mr. Stumpf's comments now, I can partially understand his concerns. Järvi isn't an especially subtle conductor, then or now, and it seems to me that some of the "character" that my colleague wished for is certainly lacking. The orchestra makes beautiful sounds to be sure, but isn't Russian in any way. On the other hand, this is certainly very well played. As for the music itself, it does nothing to validate the somewhat silly claim that had he lived longer he would have been one of the great composers. Certainly that claim seems more like an apology than anything, but neither is the music bad. It is utterly tuneful, well meaning and well crafted, with a melody that features in both the first and final movements. If it has any faults, it's just a touch faceless in nature, lacking in that special, yet difficult to describe quality that makes truly great music. At almost 40 minutes, it's a substantial work that doesn't linger too long in the memory, but never overstays its welcome.
I really like the couplings. The Sea is a marvelous tone poem. Is it Debussy's masterpiece? No, but what is? Järvi's lack of subtlety pays off here, the sea rolls and surges at his bidding. It's a dramatic and highly effective portrait. The Scottish National Orchestra delights in riding the waves, the wind details are exquisite and the drama is generally maintained throughout the piece. Anyone with an interest in this kind of Romantic gem will enjoy this. The same goes for Spring, an absolute beauty of a work that brings out the warmth and colors of the ensemble very well. Järvi clearly liked this piece, while not especially hard music, it lives or dies by keeping things moving alone smoothly.
Like everything from Chandos, the sound is terrific. While recent recordings of these pieces may match or surpass what's on display here, this is a pleasing memento of an oft-forgotten partnership. If you happen to find yourself owning this disc, it's likely to provide you with much pleasure. For the fillers alone, this is a keeper.
Copyright © 2013, Brian Wigman