Russian Orchestral Works
Tchaikovsky didn't much care for the
Jarvi's is a very musical reading, broadening nicely for the folksy lyricism, yet keeping up the flow of adrenalin. Besides the very impressive cannon of the Gothenburg Artillery and carillon, the Gothenburg Symphony Chorus make a very considerable contribution at the opening, singing the Russian hymn sonorously and affectingly and then producing a burst of fervour before the orchestra takes over. It rejoins the fray at the very end, but is rather too backwardly balanced here. This is a comment rather than a serious criticism: it must be almost impossible electronically to intertwine orchestra, bells, pre-recorded cannon and chorus, and please all ears. Generally, the engineers do a very good job. The overall effect is both exciting and genial.
Then comes a strong account of the Marche slave, with just the right touch of solemn melancholy in the opening paragraphs to balance the exultant ending. Borodin's In Central Asia is one of the most memorably poetic of all Russian orchestral evocations. It has two marvellous tunes, one used to create atmosphere and at the same time suggest movement, and the second ravishingly sinuous, able to combine with the first quite perfectly as the oriental caravan draws near.
The Polovtsian Dances alas, omit the opening percussion-led ''Dance of the Polovtsi maidens'' and begin at the ''Flowing dance''. Otherwise we are given a first-rate performance, with the chorus splendidly balanced and providing some lovely lyrical singing and a climax of considerable fervour (if not quite as unbuttoned as some versions, notably Beecham on EMI). But this is very enjoyable and in the ''General dance'' (the one with the bass drum) there is a surprise. What appears to be a brief solo from the Khan is sung by a member of the chorus, rather effectively reminding us that we are in the opera house rather than the concert hall.
Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Festival Overture is an episodic, loosely structured piece that can too easily fall apart. It doesn't here and most important, Jarvi propels everything forward without pushing too hard. The performance of the Capriccio espagnol has great zest and brilliance. The opening is faster than the recent Mackerras Telarc/Conifer version, and when the ''Alborada'' returns with great dash, after the colourful variations, one wonders if it isn't a trifle too fast. But the closing ''Fandango asturiano'' and the exciting lead up to it—with splendid bite and attack from strings and brass alike—create much exhilaration. All in all this concert can receive the strongest recommendation. The overall playing time is very generous indeed.'