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Symphony No. 2/Russia


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Product Details

  • Composer: Balakirev
  • Audio CD (July 31 1997)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Ncl
  • ASIN: B0000013YJ
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #180,243 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Sym No.2 in d: Allegro Ma Non Troppo
2. Sym No.2 in d: Scherzo Alla Cosacca: Allegro Ma Non Troppo, Ma Con Fuoco E Energico
3. Sym No.2 in d: Romanza: Andante
4. Sym No.2 in d: Finale: Polonaise
5. Russia, Symphonic Poem

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Aug. 17 1999
Format: Audio CD
My own benchmark for the symphony is Rozhdestvensky's 1960s version, which had drive, colour and a strong idiomatic feel. Compared with that, the Golovschin comes a distinct second best, although it is still a serviceable performance. I'm not so sure about Russia, which almost dies on its feet at one stage. The Mosfilm studio used for this series has, to my ears, a rather unattractive and bloodless acoustic, and this is reproduced quite faithfully on this CD, which at least has sound that is reasonably clear. Overall, I feel that this disc is quite useful for the symphony, despite the reservations mentioned above, but try elsewhere for the tone poem.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A Cheerful Russian March 24 2007
By Joshua Grasso - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
For many years, Balakirev was a historical footnote for me; I knew of him solely through reading about Rimsky, Borodin, Mussorgsky, etc., and didn't think very highly of him. Then one day, when driving around in Chicago, the local classical station played a piece that opened with the most expansive, Slavic theme--very Romantic, but not so much melancholy as endearing and cheerful. I was captivated. The movement continued in a very Russian Five type vein, but it was beautifully orchestrated and sounded like a more Nationalist composer's take on Tchaikovsky's "Little Russian" symphony. After the first movement the symphony launched into a rambunctious, and utterly divine scherzo--with a great stamping rhythm which seemed more robust than most Romantic Russian pieces I was familiar with.

Long story short, I listened to the entire piece spellbound, only to learn it was Balakirev's Second (!) Symphony. I barely knew he wrote one. This is the version I ran out and bought at Tower Records a day later. And now, many years later, this version, by Golovschin, remains my favorite version, for its slightly raw, but affectionate take on the symphony. It's a first-rate piece, in my opinion, and every bit as good as his extremely durable (but slightly less melodic) First Symphony. The Second Symphony was put aside when Balakirev became hyper-religious in true Russian fashion (Gogol, Tolstoy, etc.); many years later he returned, using discarded material from the First Symphony (the scherzo) to complete it. I've read Rimsky's disparaging remarks about the work, which is a shame, since it is cut from the same cloth as Rimsky's colorful works (but is far superior to any of his symphonies--save maybe "Antar"). The work is full of warmth, personality, and more cheerfulness than you would expect from a Russian symphony--perhaps accounting for its lack of appeal? The scherzo is the highlight, one of Balakriev's greatest inspirations; but also noteworthy is the glorious opening theme of the first movement, which is a keeper. The slow movement betrays Balakirev letting his hair down a little, since he is famous for warning his pupils not to write sentimental melodies in their works. Here, he simply writes beautiful music. The finale is fun and propulsive, but perhaps the least successful movement of the work; nevertheless, it works fine, and is played with spirit by the Moscow SO.

The big surprise is the tone poem Russia (or Rus), which is a major work. It's full of folk song quotations, but woven into the orchestral texture quite remarkably--chiefly through his adroit orchestrations. I almost like "Rus" more than the Second Symphony, though both betray a high level of inspiration.

This disc is a real find, and it's a great companion piece to the other Balakirev release by Naxos with Symphony No.1, his masterpiece, Tamara, and Lyapunov's orchestration of Islamey (which is superb). The only thing lacking from Naxos are some other overtures--In Bohemia, King Lear, and the Spanish Overtures (which were all recorded by Marco Polo, so where is the reissue)?
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Decent performances, but a little disappointing after the very good first symphony Dec 25 2009
By G.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This disc is, unfortunately, a little disappointing after listening to the release of the first symphony and Tamara with the same forces. Igor Golovschin has taken over Svetlanov's old band for these recordings and directs a couple of clear, no-fuss, classically informed performances, even if they miss out on some of the more gripping drama of this music. And the orchestra sounds rougher and less thoroughly prepared on this disc than on its predecessor - even the sound quality is rougher, as if this one was more of a hurried run-through to get the successor to the very good first symphony disc on the market as soon as possible (short measure as well - there was plenty of room here to add another of Balakirev's overtures, say).

Stylistically, Borodin is still not to far away in the symphony, although the work does, surprisingly, sound more conservative than the composer's first (a conscious return to Glinka, perhaps) - Balakirev composed it in 1908, but it is entirely devoid of any musical premonitions of the century to come. It is still a skillfully crafted, finely scored work with some arresting themes, even if it is - as the first symphony - stronger on atmosphere than thematic development. I'd say it's inferior to its predecessor, but it is still a very fine work, well worth hearing.

The tone poem Russia is a relatively early work (dating from 1864) and contains some fine music and some imaginative touches, even if it isn't among Balakirev's strongest creations - it isn't entirely convincingly put together, coming over as pretty sectional. In any case, this is a very worthwhile disc but in all respects clearly inferior to the disc of Golovschin's recording of the first symphony. If you enjoyed that one, however, you won't go seriously wrong with this one - but the Svetlanov performances are still available to blow this one out of the water.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Sometimes sleepy readings in colourless sound Aug. 17 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
My own benchmark for the symphony is Rozhdestvensky's 1960s version, which had drive, colour and a strong idiomatic feel. Compared with that, the Golovschin comes a distinct second best, although it is still a serviceable performance. I'm not so sure about Russia, which almost dies on its feet at one stage. The Mosfilm studio used for this series has, to my ears, a rather unattractive and bloodless acoustic, and this is reproduced quite faithfully on this CD, which at least has sound that is reasonably clear. Overall, I feel that this disc is quite useful for the symphony, despite the reservations mentioned above, but try elsewhere for the tone poem.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Moody compositions, well recorded and performed April 16 2006
By Pork Chop - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The rarity of Balakirev's works, makes Vol.1 and Vol.2 on

NAXOS clearly staples for whomever is interested in Russian

music, at the turn of the XXth century, over 100 years ago.

There is no way to go wrong with this release.
Eurasian music June 13 2007
By Newton Ooi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Starting with the American occupation of Japan after WWII, the world has witnessed the birth of a new culture, a fuzion of Western (American or European) and Asian tastes. Whether it be in anime cartoons, videogames, movies, pacific rim restaurants, or alternative medicine, the past 50 years has witnessed a growing confluence of cultures across the Pacific Ocean. However, unknown to many, this benign blending of East and West is not new. Russia straddles both Europe and Asia and unnoticed by many, has been synthesizing cultural tastes of both for centuries. This fuzion flowered with the Romance period of classical music in the 1800s as many Russian composers took folk tunes from across Russia and turned them into symphonic masterpieces that clearly do not sound either European or Asian in origin. The tracks on this CD are examples of this. Balakirev was one of the great Russian nationalist composers, and his music, as heard on this CD, is beautiful, evocative, dramatic and carry a distinct sound. Both the Symphony Number 2, and the symphonic piece Russia, are unique pieces that are enjoyable to listen to. Balakirev only wrote two symphonies, and this reviewer prefers the 2nd one. This being a Naxos CD, the sound quality is flawless and the performances are great. I highly recommend this CD.


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