If Glazunov's Raymonda isn't quite in the same league as Tchaikovsky's ballets, when listening to a disc like this it is easy to come to think otherwise. Neeme Järvi and Chandos does not give us the complete work, but something of an extended suite of excerpts (56 minutes), wonderfully performed and recorded.
To take the music first, Raymonda is full of superb tunes, gorgeously luscious textures and wonderful atmospheres, and it is quite clear that Glazunov must have been an expert in writing successful ballet music (perhaps it is due to the performances, but it is at least quite easy to picture the ballet to yourself when listening to this disc). Perhaps the music is, occasionally, a little superficial, but many of the scenes are almost breathtakingly evocative and glitteringly brilliant (and yes, the music is sufficiently variegated that it is no problem to experience the whole thing in a single span even without the pictures); and of course Glazunov was a master of orchestration.
The performances by the Scottish National Orchestra under Järvi are absolutely magnificent; the various scenes are so vividly realized, there is such energy, brilliance, range of colors and beauty in this playing that it will easily take even those of us who expected a bit from the line-up by some surprise (I am also a little surprised that at least one reviewer here disagrees with the assessment). The strings are as full-bodied and vibrant as any, the woodwind section superb and the brass bristling with warm energy. Given first-rate recorded sound (spacious and big, perhaps a little too much so for some ears) as well this is, indeed, an outstanding release, recommended to anyone with a taste for evocative romanticism or, really, anyone whatsoever.