Russian rarities by Rimsky-Korsakov, Ippolitov-Ivanov, Gliere, and Khachaturian

Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Antar was first performed in 1869, conducted by Mili Balakirev. Rimsky-Korsakov then made changes to his work before conducting it in 1876. When published, in 1880, it was titled ‘Second Symphony’, but then when a new edition was published in 1903, its title had been changed to ‘Symphonic Suite’, even though Rimsky-Korsakov was not able to make all the musical changes he still wanted. After the composer’s death in 1913, Antar was described by its publisher as a symphonic suite, in concordance with the composer’s wishes.

Maurice Abravanel leads the Utah Symphony Orchestra in this nicely engineered ALTO/MUSICAL CONCEPTS recording (ALC1450) about the adventures of Antarah ibn Shaddad al-Absi, a knight whose life and adventures inspired much poetry in the Arab world, bringing out all of the melodic and harmonic exoticism and oriental color of a story that depicts through music fantasy, adventure and love.

Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov was a student of Rimsky-Korsakov at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, who spent seven years in Georgia, experiencing the beauty of the region and incorporating into his music the chiming of bell, the sounds of the Zurna, the Tar, the Duduk, and the call to prayer of the Muezzin. These exotic sounds are vividly present in Ippolitov-Ivanov’s four-sections Caucasian Sketches, yet another neglected piece from the vast Russian orchestral repertoire, given a bravura reading by Maestro Abravanel and the Utah musicians.

The album also includes Reinhold Glière’s The Red Poppy (1927) and Aram Khachaturian Gayeneh (1942), both ballets from the Soviet era, both nicely played, the first by Maurice Abravanel and the Utah musicians, the other by Vladimir Golschmann and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra.

Rafael de Acha   ALL ABOUT THE ARTS