Notes and Editorial Reviews
Quintet in F for Piano and Winds,
Quintet in B? for Piano and Winds
Aleksey Nasedkin (pn);
Valentin Zverev (fl);
Vladimir Sokolov (cl);
Anatoly Dyomin (hn);
class="ARIAL12">Sergey Krasavin (bn); Alexander Bakhchiev (pn);
Alexander Korneyev (fl);
Vladimir Zverev (cl);
Boris Afanasyev (hn);
Vladimir Vlasenko (bn)
MELODIYA 10 02099 (69:35)
Russian Romantic quintets for piano and winds: now
is an obscure niche in the repertoire. Few recordings of either of these works are currently available. Most that have existed in the past—a nice pairing of these was once available on Calig played by Wolfgang Sawallisch and soloists—are now out of print. This disc resurrects two recordings made in the Soviet Union 12 years apart: the Rubinstein in 1977 and the Rimsky-Korsakov in 1965. Both recordings feature performers described by the notes as “world-famous Russian musicians.” A quick search suggests that while
may be hyperbole, they were/are highly regarded instrumentalists in their homeland, and several have reputations in the West. They are technically fine; Aleksey Nasedkin, the pianist in the demanding Rubinstein, is particularly so. He, notably, received sixth place in the 1962 Tchaikovsky Competition jointly won by Vladimir Ashkenazy and John Ogden. These performances have not, as far as I can determine, been readily available in the West before now.
Both works are relatively early ones. The prolific Rubinstein wrote his quintet in 1855 at the age of 26. Having pursued compositional studies in Berlin a few years before, his primary influence in this four-movement, almost 40-minute work—and really all of his music—is German Romanticism and especially Schumann. He exhibited no interest in furthering the nationalistic music being espoused at the same time by The Five. He was also clearly attracted to composition for the piano, on which he was a supreme virtuoso, as the writing is confident and the demands virtuosic for that instrument, while the writing for the winds is less challenging, less assured, and usually less interesting. Overall, it is a proficient and attractive work, without being anything one would claim as terribly important.
The same could be said for Rimsky-Korsakov’s only quintet, written for a competition sponsored by the Russian Music Society—whose creation, incidentally, Rubinstein had encouraged—in 1876 at age 32. Rimsky-Korsakov, however, was an expert orchestrator and thoroughly familiar with the use of wind instruments through his employment as Inspector of Naval Bands. For the wind writing, which is colorful and idiomatic, that makes all the difference. He also was a member of The Five, and his music is alive with the influences of Russian folk music, making this an immediately appealing work. True, some of the writing in the concluding Rondo is trite, but I suspect overall, this is the work most likely to attract collectors.
One must, however, endure a few minor indignities common to recordings from the Soviet Union. Russian horn playing is an acquired taste, and while these players restrain the vibrato and sound less like saxophones than some, it is still a bit of a trial if you are not prepared for the rather oddly colored and frankly, other than in a glowing moment of the Rimsky-Korsakov finale, rather anemic sound. Horn tuning can be a bit dicey at times as well. Still, the tone quality aside, the horn solo in the
movement of the Rimsky-Korsakov is quite lovely. There are tonal concerns with the other winds, too, partially a matter of tradition and partially the function of inferior instruments. Then there are issues of balance in the recording itself. All of these matters are more prevalent in the Rubinstein recording than in the earlier Rimsky-Korsakov. In fact, the earlier recording is more pleasant to listen to on all counts. I rather suspect that the reissue engineers have given the tapes a good sonic scrubbing as well, and these come up with almost none of the technical problems—hiss, splices, speed variations—that were the occasional trials of releases from this source in the past. Worth buying? Absolutely, to anyone interested in Romantic wind chamber music and looking for a lively guide to these less traveled routes.
FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
Except for a few hits, such as Melody in F and Rêve angélique, Anton Rubinstein's music is rarely heard and his chamber music is even rarer. The melodious Quintet for Winds is an early work and harkens back toward the Romantic German masters of the mid-19th century.
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's chamber music places less emphasis on the exotic and oriental scales of his lush orchestral works, and tends to be more diatonic while leaning in character toward the academic. That said, his Quintet for Winds is a delightful work, graced with appealing melodies. Rimsky-Korsakov's mastery of orchestration is also evident in his understanding and feel for each of the woodwinds, with each instrument's characteristic tone color well suited to the music. These stereo performances, recorded by Melodiya, date from 1965 and 1977.
Greg La Traille, ArkivMusic Read less
Works on This Recording
Quintet for Piano and Winds in F major, Op. 55 by Anton Rubinstein
Valentin Zverev (Flute),
Anatoly Demin (Horn),
Vladimir Sokolov (Clarinet),
Sergei Krasavin (Bassoon),
Aleksey Nasedkin (Piano)
Written: circa 1855/1860; Russia
Date of Recording: 1977
Quintet for Piano and Winds in B flat major by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Alexander Korneev (Flute),
Boris Afanasyev (Horn),
Vladimir Zverev (Clarinet),
Vladimir Vlasenko (Bassoon),
Alexander Bakhchiev (Piano)
Written: 1876; Russia
Date of Recording: 1965
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