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Nor did his zest for development end there. When already thirty, he decided on a return to basics, busying himself with contrapuntal puzzles, fugues and harmonization of chorales. Tchaikovsky approved and helped but found the first fruits indigestible. Musorgsky was scornful and hoped he would run out of ink. Both works on this CD are among the 1876 results of a considerable ink supply, and both were submitted in a competition organised by the Russian Music Society. The sextet received honourable mention, the quintet was ignored. The jury's decision was topsy-turvy. The sextet is full of attractive ideas but, a wonder in the case of Rimsky-Korsakov who had an uncanny ear for instrumental colour, the scoring is less than subtle. Nor does the team's performance help. Czech players were once legendary for their instinctive musicianship, most notably the fiddlers. Here too much is perfunctory. Yet there is a touch of traditional style in the saltarello Scherzo [listen -- track 6, 1:59-3:06]. The rhythmic momentum has carried the players joyously along. Rimsky also manages an affecting slow movement despite his absorbtion in the textbooks, and here too the strings give of their best [listen -- track 7, 0:00-0:55].

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Copyright © 7 September 2003 Robert Anderson, London UK


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