Chandos Re-runs Downes’ Glière “Ilya Muromets” Symphony

Review by: Victor Carr Jr


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 9

Fans of Glière’s Ilya Muromets symphony had cause to celebrate when this disc first appeared in 1992. It was the first recording of the work available on one CD (Harold Farberman’s long-winded first-ever digital recording occupied two discs). However, the near-simultaneous release of Donald Johanos’ far more imaginative and involving performance on Marco Polo (now Naxos) made painfully obvious the rather staid quality of Edward Downes’ rendition. Nonetheless, the Downes disc was lauded by the British press, not least due to the superiority of Chandos’ resplendent recorded sound, which made the low-level and narrow-stage Marco Polo production sound dim by comparison.

This reissue finds Chandos playing Obi Wan to Naxos’ Darth Vader (“I was but the learner, now I am the master”). In 2014 Naxos released a powerful and gripping performance by JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic (captured in excellent sound) that easily trounces Downes. So, is Downes’ reading bad? Not at all. He clearly knows the work, and leads a thoroughly competent rendition, with first-rate playing by the BBC Philharmonic. You’ll appreciate it, but you won’t remember it–not the way you’ll remember Falletta’s (or Ormandy’s, despite it’s substantial cuts, or even Botstein’s). Get the Falletta for a lasting impact.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Falletta (Naxos); Botstein (Telarc); Ormandy (RCA)

    BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Edward Downes

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