This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Balakirev's First Symphony was one of Sir Thomas Beecham's favourite pieces, as concertgoers of the older generation have grateful cause to remember; and his (now deleted) EMI recording was a classic much treasured by collectors. Neeme Jãrvi loves the piece no less, it is clear, and he has a greater directness, in some ways, with it than did Sir Thomas. It is an approach less characterized by an appreciation of charm and colour than of the strength of the invention and the vigour of the handling of it; charm and colour can be graces to these qualities. Svetlanov (Le Chant du Monde) has a similar approach; but this recording is a fine one and picks out all the elegant and vivid detail of Balakirev's scoring. Järvi has a splendid
driving energy with the Scherzo, a perennially delightful movement that is not at all easy to bring off well; and the languor of the slow movement—somewhat protracted, perhaps, but none the less effective—is handled without selfindulgence. The recording comes up very well again on CD, and is much recommended in this new format as well as in the old.
-- Gramophone [4/1987]
Balakirev's First Symphony is rarely heard in the concert hall and is relatively neglected by the gramophone. This fine newcomer from the City of Birmingham Orchestra under Neeme Järvi is only the fourth commercial recording actually issued in the UK. Karajan's pioneering record with the Philharmonia Orchestra appeared first on six 78rpm discs (Columbia LX 1323-8, 11/50) and was until recently available in an excellent single-disc transfer (HMV mono XLP60001, 7/80). It is still in circulation as part of the four-record set listed above devoted to Karajan's early recordings with the Philharmonia. In many ways it has never been surpassed, not even by Beecham and the RPO (Columbia mono 33CX1450, 6/57) and certainly not by Svetlanov and the USSR Symphony Orchestra recorded in the 1960s though not released here until much later (HMV ASD3316, 3/77).
The Balakirev symphony is a wise choice on the part of EMI's planners and restores one's faith in record companies at a time when we are overwhelmed with duplications of the standard repertoire: it is a work of strong appeal and not currently available in a modern stereo recording, so that the scales are heavily weighted in its favour. Moreover, this is not only a very good performance indeed but hardly less fine as a recording too. The performance is well prepared and the CBSO produces good ensemble and responds sensitively to Jrvi's direction; the woodwind phrasing is well shaped and yet never draws attention to itself, save perhaps, at one point in the slow movement (bars 10- 11) where both the pianopianissimo tone and the ritenuto strike me as a trifle exaggerated. The symphony is preceded on Side I by the Liadov Polonaise, which sounds like an amiable and not-too-distant relative of the Polonaise from Eugene Onegin.
Neeme Järvi gives an admirably straightforward account of the first movement of the symphony and, as so often in such performances under his direction as I have heard, there is an excellent sense of momentum without one being made aware of it. The first two movements are first class and altogether exemplary. The slow movement, which is very difficult to bring off, seems to me to sag a little. I thought this was due to the more relaxed tempo Järvi adopts, but in a number of instances his and Beecham's tempos do not differ to any appreciable extent at the marked dotted crotchet= 54. There are two minor reservations, neither of them strong enough to modify to any extent the warmth of the new LP's welcome: first, the string tone, though beautifully clean, sounds just a little wanting in sonority and weight by comparison with the Philharmonia. This tells, for example, at the lovely counter-idea at fig. 3 in the slow movement where both Karajan, who moves things on a little here, and Beecharn and the RPO have more eloquence and bloom. Secondly, and this may in part contribute to this impression, the recording balance is not 'a seat in the stalls' perspective but rather a box overlooking the stage. There is not quite enough sense of depth in the aural picture though in every other respect, truthfulness of timbre, richness of bass sonority and range, it is altogether first class. By making these points I am conscious that I may seem to be lending them too great an importance for, as I hope these lines indicate, this is a firstclass issue from which I derived much musical satisfaction and for which I would certainly pay money.
-- Gramophone [9/1984]
reviewing the original LP release
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 1 in C major by Mily Balakirev
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1864-1866; Russia
Length: 43 Minutes 11 Secs.
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