Pletnev and the RNO play Shchedrin on DG

0 of 5 stars

Carmen Suite
Concertos for Orchestra –
No.1 ’Naughty Limericks’
No.2 ’The Chimes’

Russian National Orchestra conducted by Mikhail Pletnev

Reviewed by: Bob Hazeldine

Reviewed: March 2002
CD No: DG 471 136-2

This is Bizet’s Carmen without singers. Rodion Shchedrin (born in Moscow in 1932) uses only an orchestra of strings and percussion and displays great imagination in his arrangement, one that is loyal to Bizet and free-thinking in its re-creation. Carmen Suite is too long maybe and over-effectual; nevertheless, Shchedrin creates a sort of dreamscape that is compelling in its colours and atmosphere while allowing Bizet’s wonderful melodies to be freshly appreciated.

Pletnev conducts an animated and supple performance, one more even-tempered than Gennadi Rozhdestvensky’s. Pletnev does not match the frisson of his recording; as so often with this musician one feels Pletnev has deliberated too much over certain aspects and thus loses some spontaneity. The playing though is accurate and there’s obvious affection for Shchedrin’s Bizet ’make-over’.

At the last count, Shchedrin had written five Concertos for Orchestra. ’Naughty Limericks’ is a collection of popular ditties spiced up by the preserve of a Russian composer, a cynical edge. Whether taken at face value or as having some sort of ’message within’, ’Naughty Limericks’ brings off better than most the balancing act between entertainment and encoded communication.

The Chimes (1967) is more obviously momentous. Quiescent and ominous, Shchedrin’s clamour reports the composer having been alive during a particular time.

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