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Shchedrin The Enchanted Wanderer

bass Sergey Alexashkin
high tenor Yevgeny Akimov
mezzo Kristina Kapustinskaya

Mariinsky Opera/Gergiev

Mariinsky SACD MAR0504 (UK release April 2010)

Commissioned by Maazel, premiered in New York 2002, and toured in UK by Gergiev to some 'mixed' reviews (links below), this 90-minutes opera was recorded for CD in July 2008 at the Mariinsky Concert Hall. When first given there it had received a 30 minutes ovation - imagine !

Based upon a "magical, rich, original and untranslatable" 137-page Leskov story, expertly compressed by the composer to an 8-page libretto, it casts an undeniable spell and relies upon mood rather than complete logic. Slow moving, yes, but musically far from uneventful.

The then 70-yr old Rodion Shchedrin's expertise is undeniable and perhaps it is time to put aside his collaboration with the organisation of music in Stalin's time; he was associated later with Sakharov and Boris Yeltsin, to his political credit.

This twofer, sent for review by the LSO-Live label, presents the best possible case for it, and I was convinced and engrossed.

This is a lavish production, with extensive essays and full texts and translations (even a guide to reading the Cyrillic text, though the English version is readily followed if you keep an eye on who is singing and for how many lines of text).

The fill-ups on the second disc are useful; some fragments from a ballet The Little Humpbacked Horse and his ground breaking, virtuosic Concerto for Orchestra no 1 (Naughty Limericks), innovative in its time and place, still well able to hold its own (sample it).

Recommended. But beware, you might agree with Andrew Clements of the Guardian, who thought it "vacuous - - quasi-liturgical kitsch" etc...

Peter Grahame Woolf

Shchedrin Concertos for Orchestra
Nos. 4 'Khorovody' & No. 5 'Four Russian Songs'
Kristallene Gusli

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits

Naxos - 8572405

This is a delightful CD of captivating music by a composer who survived through the Stalin era and contines to flourish. I cannot think there would be any listeners who would fail to enjoy it - except, perhaps, Andrew Clements?

Best to start with the brief, magical Crystal Psaltery (1999) which, says Bournemouth's new Ukranian conductor, Kirill Karabits, "sounds like Japanese wind-chimes". 'Khorovody' (1989), follows very naturally, beginning with a recorder playing a folk-song like fragment supported by flutes blowing into their mouth-pieces. Many surprises and aural delights on the way. And finally No.5, a BBC Proms commission, which was premiered by the Ulster Orchestra (1998); how many times has it been heard in UK since then?

The composer provides a personal note about the genesis of his music " - - When I was growing up,it was still possible to hear choral songs, the sound of the accordion, the strumming of the balalaika, funeral laments, the cries of shepherds at dawn, coming from beyond a river, enveloped in fog. All that distant and now extinct musical atmosphere of a Russian province is strongly etched in my childhood memories - - ".

Don't miss this great disc, a worthy companion to the opera recommended above.


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