Baubles, Bangles, & Strings

Review by: David Vernier


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 9

In most compilations such as this, you are lulled into a comfortable place where the listening’s easy and the romantic atmosphere is high. Then, just as you settle in and relax, the mood is shattered by an unwanted intruder, suddenly boisterous, ill-fitting, in unhappy harmony with what has come before–some programmer’s notion that variety is the spice of life and therefore must make for better recordings. The good thing here: that doesn’t happen. The course is smooth sailing all the way through, delivering violinist/violist/director Yuri Zhislin’s promise that these are “some of the most romantic Russian works for strings.”

In actuality, each of these pieces is an arrangement for string orchestra of a differently conceived original work–movements from string quartets (Arensky, Tchaikovsky, Borodin); a concerto for alto saxophone by Glazunov transcribed for viola; Rachmaninov’s famed Vocalise–and all are very well done and contextually, expressively, idiomatically right and successfully realized. Perhaps the music is not the world’s greatest, but we are only asked to “enjoy” it–and that is very easy to do. Tchaikovsky’s Quartet No. 1, of which we hear the Andante cantabile, is one of this composer’s more highly regarded chamber pieces; Glazunov’s concerto, while not so well known, is a thoroughly engaging concert work that lives well and has excellent opportunity to prosper in Zhislin’s version for viola.

Of course, doesn’t everyone know Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, in some form or other? And why not–no one with an ear for beauty can escape the allure of such an irresistible melody, and Zhislin treats it well. And whose ears, once they’ve experienced the ingeniously (and respectfully) crafted music of the Broadway musical Kismet have ever heard Borodin’s melodies again without hearing those lyrics, those orchestrations, those legendary actor/singer/interpreters? The String Quartet No. 2 was fertile ground for two numbers, “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads” and the operatic-style quartet “And This Is My Beloved”, the latter of which we hear in Zhislin’s string orchestra arrangement. It’s an excellent choice, and in the Camerata Tchaikovsky’s rendition a highlight of a recording full of eminently listenable, assuredly repeatable, easily recommendable music and performances.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: Russian Colors

GLAZUNOV: Concerto for Alto Saxophone & String Orchestra in E-flat Op. 109 (transcr. for viola & string orchestra by Yuri Zhislin)
ARENSKY: String Quartet No. 2 in A minor Op. 35a (1st & 3rd mvts. arr. for string orchestra by Y. Zhislin)
TCHAIKOVSKY: Andante cantabile from String Quartet No. 1 Op. 11 (arr. for string orchestra by Y. Zhislin)
BORODIN: Nocturne from String Quartet No. 2 (arr. for string orchestra by Y. Zhislin)
RACHMANINOV: Vocalise Op. 34 (arr. for string orchestra by Y. Zhislin)

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