Russian Soul (CD review)

Music of Tchaikovsky, Gliere, Scriabin, Mussorgsky, Shostakovich, and Gedike. Corey Cerovsek, violin; Constantine Orbelian, Moscow Chamber Orchestra. Delos DE 3244.

No, we're not talking about rhythm and blues or gospel music here. We're talking about, well, the animating principal of traditional music, particularly of Russian traditional music.

The accompanying booklet to this 1999 Delos release asks the question, What are the most obvious traits of Russian music, with the answer "emotionally intense, melodically rich, often dark in sound and melancholic in mood." That aptly sums up the short Russian works on this disc, with an emphasis on the melancholy.

Constantine Orbelian
American-born Constantine Orbelian (of Russian and Armenian parentage) leads the Moscow Chamber Orchestra (Orbelian being the first American ever to lead a Russian ensemble) in a series of pieces, some familiar, some not, by a variety of Russian composers. Tchaikovsky's "Meditation," Serenade Melancholique," "Elegie," and "Andante Cantabile" will certainly be familiar to most listeners; as will the several bits by Gliere, Scriabin, Mussorgsky, and Shostakovich. But there are also folk tunes like "The Rush Light" and a "Miniature" by Gedike that will perhaps come as new delights. Corey Cerovsek's dramatically plaintive violin is no less a contributing factor to the authority of the program than the Russian players behind him.

Delos's sound, engineered by John Eargle, closely matches the climate of the music. It is warm, smooth, flattering in its soft ambiance, and entirely realistic. Eargle apparently recorded it for optimum playback in surround sound, as the disc is marked a "Virtual Reality Recording." But it is a tribute to the developing technique of multi-channel processing that no evidence of this system is noticeable during regular two-channel stereo listening. There is no shroud of enveloping fog veiling the music as one sometimes hears from this VR recording process. Indeed, the sonics, while not the ultimate in transparency, always appear quite natural.

Altogether, this is a pleasant if somewhat somber recording of mostly soulful, though not doleful, Russian favorites. The good sound is icing on the cake.


To listen to a few brief excerpts from this album, click below:

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

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It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa