This disc represents the start of a new cycle of orchestral music by Russian composer and Shostakovich contemporary Vissarion Shebalin. There hasn’t been much attention paid him since the old Olympia recordings of the symphonies and other orchestral pieces, although you never know what Melodiya may be planning. The two works here allegedly represent CD premieres, although I say “allegedly” because you never really know these days.
Containing six and eight movements respectively, the two suites resemble Shostakovich’s music for theater orchestra and for the cinema. There is a funeral march, a tarantella, bolero, gallop, romance, a couple of pieces simply marked “dance”, and several waltzes. The First Suite’s second Dance contains a part for banjo and saxophone that immediately establishes the popular idiom, and the music is unfailingly tuneful, pleasant, and (let’s face it) trivial. In short, it’s fluff, but none the worse for that.
The performances are quite good. The Siberian Symphony Orchestra is the ensemble of the city of Omsk, Shebalin’s home town team. Dmitry Vasiliev leads his players with conviction and admirable directness. There’s nothing interpretively tricky here: just good clean fun of a kind that will have you looking forward to the next volume in this series when, hopefully, we’ll have a chance to sample some of Shebalin’s more serious work.