The Art of Orchestration
Leslie Richford | Selsingen, Lower Saxony | 06/25/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Rimsky-Korsakov was the most gifted and the least narrow-minded of the ?Mighty Handful?, and it is, in a sense, unfortunate that his name is indelibly associated with his ?Flight of the Bumble-Bee?, a piece of scarcely two minutes from his opera ?A Tale of Tsar Saltan? that has become a showpiece for various instrumentalists. Rimsky-Korsakov deserves wider recognition than that, and the budget label Naxos has worked hard to give him back the reputation he deserves. The three suites recorded by Donald Johanos and the Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra of Bratislava were taken from two operas and a ballet written by the composer at his maturest (the ?Coq d?Or? only having been performed in full a year after Rimsky?s death in 1908 as it was considered susceptible of interpretation as mockery of the Czar of Russia). Such suites usually contain the most interesting portions of the longer works from which they are taken, and I assume that to be the case here, but nevertheless they gave me quite an appetite to hear more, preferably the whole works. In particular, it is Rimsky-Korsakov?s art of orchestration which holds me fascinated, especially as this is captured here clearly, if at something of a distance, by the Naxos engineers. Just listen to the ?birdsong? in the first two tracks of the CD, to ?King Dodon on the Battlefield? or to the Lithuanian and Indian dances from ?Mlada?. As with many of Naxos?s early Slovakian recordings (this one was made in 1991 in Bratislava), I do have reservations about the somewhat cavernous, rather distant sound and because of this will give the recording one star less than the good performance would otherwise have earned. But as a gateway to a composer who is all too often neglected, this CD has merits indeed."