Friday, 9 March 2018

Russians Play Russian

The Russians are famous for composing first-class music, as well as for churning out generations of first-class musicians (especially pianists and violinists). They are not famous for their recording technology of generations ago, so I approached a disc of “Russian Treasures” recorded during the dark years of 1948 and 1957 with considerable trepidation. I was pleasantly surprised; the original tapes came from Moscow Radio (not the studios of Melodya) and the tapes were processed by the Czech company Multisonic in 1993. Even given the age of the original performances, the results made pleasant listening. Composers were all Russian: Glinka (Sestetto), Borodin (Grand Trio) and Tchaikovsky (String Sextet).

The Russians often have a bad press (especially by the paranoid Americans); sometimes deservedly, more often, not. Politics aside, the Russian artists playing Glinka, Borodin and Tchaikovsky would be hard to beat: Leonid Kogan, Elizabeta Gilels, Dmitry Tsyganov, Vasily Shirinksy, Sergei Shirinsky, Mstislav Rostropovich, Rudolf Barshai ... and others. Very much Golden Age performances of this music. I'll keep the CD to hand for re-playing whenever I need reminding there is still superb music making to be had at the touch of a button. The Russians in Russian music are still hard to beat. I am still waiting for a really good transfer of the famous 1952 recording of Tchaikovsky's opus 50 piano trio with Gilels, Kogan and Rostropovich.

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