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As the joke goes - who is the best known Russian composer after Tchaikovsky?...Rimsky 'but of'Korsakov. I'm sure some would say there are others to consider but, as this selection of his work by Naxos, culled from a number of their releases, demonstrates, he was an extremely versatile composer and more than a match for his more illustrious contemporary. Indeed, perhaps more than Tchaikovsky, Rimsky Korsakov, like many Russian composers of the mid to late 19th Century, made tremendous use of the wide variety of orchestral sounds available to conjour up moods, images and musical dramas - without losing sight of the need to deliver them in the shape of memorable tunes. This is ably demonstrated by the opening piece, 'Capriccio espagnol', and the two excerpts from his best known work, 'Scheherazade', but even the perhaps lesser known works - the exuberant 'Dance of the Tumblers' for example - display a lively and inventive musical imagination at work. True, the 'Russian Easter Festival Overture', a solid, accomplished work, may not reach the dizzy heights of the '1812 Overture' but The 'Allegretto-Adagio' from his Symphony No.2, with its twittering woodwind borne on gentle, gusty, string breezes, is as good as any Tchaikovsky slow movement. Besides, one suspects the great man himself would have been proud to have composed something as impressive as 'The Festival at Baghdad-The Sea, from Scheherazade', the track that concludes this selection, or the uplifting, finger tapping 'Cortege from Mlada' - the father of many a 20th Century English composer's march.
Despite the variety of orchestras and conductors involved for this selection the sound quality and performances are uniformly excellent - warm and robust with a good balance between strings, woodwind, percussion and brass. If you want to hear the best of Rimsky-Korsakov, and see how versatile he was, then this record is a good start and, who knows, it may tempt you to delve deeper into the work of a composer who had that gift of composing melodies that embed themselves in your mind.
Die "The Best-of-Reihe" von NAXOS bietet Aufnahmen in hervorragender Klangqualität und ausgezeichneten Interpretationen. Auch wenn es sich hierbei nicht um so bekannter Orchester, Dirigenten und Sänger wie bei der "Best-of-Serie" von der Deutschen Grammophon bzw. Decca handelt, sind diese Aufnahme nicht weniger hörenswert. Die CD vermittelt dem Anfänger einen guten Überblick über das musikalische Schaffen des jeweiligen Komponisten. Aber auch für den Kenner sind diese Aufnahmen zeitlos.Ob es sich hierbei immer um die besten Stücke handelt, sei dahingestellt, weil eine solche Auswahl immer nur subjektiv sein kann. Trotzdem kann ich diese Reihe nur empfehlen.