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An additional gem is the Symphonic poem Prince Rostislav, commemorating a colourful 13th Century Russian celebrity -- here is one of the early Rachmaninov's most passionately entrancing melodies [listen -- track 4, 6:11-7:27] together with orchestral imprints that were to set Rachmaninov's creative genius apart. Svetlanov first recorded this as long ago as 1973, nearly thirty years after its Moscow première (2 November 1945) with conductor Nikolai Anosov. The work is based on a Tolstoy poem and tells of a slain knight, lying on the bed of the Dnieper attended by freshwater mermaids. The most prominent of the numerous historical Rostislavs was Rostislav Mikhailovich (1225-1263) but there's no record of him dying by water.

Rostislav was the son of Prince Michael of Chernigov, sometime grand prince of Kiev. His mother was Maria Romanovna, daughter of Roman Mstislavich the Great of Galicia and Volynia, sometime grand prince of Kiev, and sister of Danylo Romanovich, king of Halych. Rostislav married Anna of Hungary (c1226-c1270), a daughter of Béla IV of Hungary. Mikhailovich and his wife had five children.

Vocalise Op 34 [listen -- track 5, 8:15-9:44] vies with the 18th Variation of Rachmaninov's Variations on a Theme of Paganini as his most universally popular theme and has appeared in transcriptions galore. While it appropriately rounds of this fine CD, Svetlanov moves the lyrical miniature forward at a somewhat funereal tempo (producing a duration of 9 minutes 47 seconds).

Several top class recordings are available at lower prices. For example, the Ashkenazy/Concertgebouw or Mackerras/Royal Liverpool PO recordings offer these two pieces at more competitive pricing. I'd be inclined to check out Svetlanov on Regis.

The present recording is one of a comprehensive Svetlanov Official Edition; released by Warner Records, France; more than twenty are complete and a staggering one hundred are planned by 2010.

Beyond question, Evgeny Svetlanov is one of Russia's triumvirate of master conductors: Evgeny Mravinsky, Evgeny Svetlanov and Gennady Rohzdestvensky. He worked at the Bolshoi Theatre from 1955 and was appointed principal conductor there in 1962; subsequently from 1965 to 2000 he became principal conductor (recording extensively) with the USSR State Symphony Orchestra (founded 1936); now the Russian State Symphony Orchestra (RSSO). In 1979 he was appointed principal guest conductor of the LSO. Then, two years before he died (May 2002, aged 74), Svetlanov was fired from his post with the RSSO by Vladimir Putin's minister of culture, Mikhail Shvydkoi; the pretext -- he was spending too much time as an overseas guest conductor.

Copyright © 21 August 2007 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


Evgeny Svetlanov - Rachmaninov

5101 14505-2 Stereo FIRST RELEASE 65'47" 1996/2006 Svetlanova

Russian Federation State Symphony Orchestra; Evgeny Svetlanov, conductor

Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943): Symphonic Dances Op 45 (Non allegro; Andante con moto; Lento assai - Allegro vivace); Symphonic Poem 'Prince Rostislav'; Vocalise Op 34 No 14


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