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Rimsky-Korsakov: The Maid of Pskov (p) 2000 HNH International Ltd

This immersion into Russian folk tradition remained throughout his life, firing the two great operas that are the fruits of his later years, The Invisible City of Kitezh and The Golden Cockerel. For their Naxos recording, Igor Golovchin and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra have focussed on Rimsky-Korsakov's colourful evocation of the Russian folk world. The suite from The Invisible City has four movements, beginning with the Hymn to Nature, which is followed by a wedding procession, complete with sleigh bells and one of those languorous melodies he learnt from Filippov. After the Tartar invasion (shadows brought to life later by Prokofiev), the suite closes with the death of Fevroniya (the woodland maiden who falls in love with the Prince of Kitezh) and the grandeur of the Invisible City to which their souls are brought to the wedding.

Rimsky-Korsakov's first opera, The Maid of Pskov, written almost 40 years earlier that Kitezh, was not done with the expertise he later acquired, but the Overture and four entr'actes that make up the suite are the result of later revisions he made and adapted as incidental music for performances of the original play. Predating this first opera is his Fantasia on Serbian Themes, an atmospheric opening from which emerges a lively dance. It is however the mature and beautifully crafted Skazka (Legend, or as the sleeve has it, Fairy Tale) which provides the most vivid evocation of the exotic fantasy world of Russia's roots. It moves from the gentle haunting beauty of the forest and its water-nymphs through the ominous darkness cast by the witch Baba Yaga and outwards into the sunlight. There are a few rough edges in the orchestral playing, but generally this is a recording well worth having.

Copyright © 4 August 2001 Patric Standford, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, UK







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