GLINKA: Capriccio brillante on the Jota aragonesa (Spanish
1). Overture in D. Souvenir of a Summer Night in Madrid (Spanish
Overture No. 1). Symphony on Two Russian Themes. Kamarinskaya. Excerpts
from Ruslan and Lyudmila (Overture, Dance, Chenomor's March).
Michael Glinka (1804-1857) is recognized as the father of the Russian national school as well as a founder of the "oriental" influence in Russian music. Born into a well-to-do Russian family, he had minimal music study, went to Italy where he met Bellini and Donizetti and then resolved to learn how to write music so he could compose a truly Russian opera, which turned out to be A Life for the Czar composed in 1836. His next opera, Ruslan and Lyudmila, composed in 1842, is his best-known, with the overture and dances frequently played at concerts.
This new CD offers a wide range of Glinka's output including all of his major orchestral works in fine performances. Aside from the familiar Ruslan excerpts we have an early work, Overture in D, composed c. 1822, a six-minute presto in classical style that is totally charming and sounds not one bit "Russian." The "Symphony on Two Russian Themes" actually is the first movement of a planned full-length work, and does indeed sound Russian as it is based on two Russian folk songs, one slow, the other lively. Kamarinskaya, composed in 1848, usually is considered to be Glinka's finest piece, also based on two folk songs, repeated about 30 times throughout the work with changing accompaniment. Tchaikovsky, in particular, admired this saying of it, "it is a stunningly original piece from which all later Russian composers (including myself, of course) draw so obviously contrapuntal and harmonic combinations as soon as they treat a Russian dance tune...The Russian symphonic school is all in Kamarinskaya, just as the whole oak is in the acorn."
Glinka lived in Spain from 1845 to 1847 resulting in two Spanish overtures. The first, Capriccio brillante on the "Jota aragonesa" (often just called Jota aragonesa), uses a folk-tune, while the second, Souvenir of a Night in Madrid utilizes four folksongs representing a tour of Madrid's nightlife. The CD also contains a charming Valse-Fantasie.
Sinaisky leads the BBC Philharmonic in superb performances that catch the music's spirit perfectly, and the Chandos sound is exemplary. For a collection of Glinka's orchestral music, this is hard to beat. Perhaps there could Volume II containing the works contained on a long unavailable Melodiya CD with Evgeni Svetlanov and the USSR Symphony Orchestra (Patriotic Song, Prayer, Memory of Friendship, two overtures) (SUCD 10-00167) and another Melodiya CD with Russian orchestras conducted by Evgeni Svetlanov (SUCD 10-00166) (Overture and dances from Ivan Susanin, more excerpts from Ruslan and Lyudmila and Andante cantabile and rondo in d minor)(SUCD 10-00166).