Balakirev and Russian Folksong
Click on cover for high-resolution image
£8.50 to Discovery Club members
(member discounts on MP3s also)

Price includes postage and packing

Comment on this album

Balakirev and Russian Folksong

Catalogue Number: TOCC0018
EAN: 5060113440181
Release Date: 3 September 2007
Duration: 79:26

Nominated for two Grammys!

Grand Fantasia on Russian Folksongs for piano and orchestra, Op. 4
30 Songs of the Russian People

Joseph Banowetz, piano
Russian Philharmonic of Moscow, orchestra
Konstantin Krimets, conductor
Olga Kalugina, soprano
Svetlana Nikolaeva, mezzo soprano
Pavel Kolgatin, tenor
Joseph Banowetz and Alton Chung Ming Chan, piano duet

Mily Balakirev (1837–1910) – the leader of the group of Russian composers known as ‘the Mighty Handful’ – was influenced by folksong from the very start of his career. His expansive Grand Fantasia on Russian Folksongs for piano and orchestra is one of his very first compositions, written when he was seventeen. And the 30 Folksongs of the Russian People for piano duet, folksong-arrangements from the other end of his career, show his deep understanding of the sources, which he endows with dignity and colour. Each of his arrangements is preceded on this CD by the original folksong, illuminating Balakirev’s perceptive approach to this fascinating material.

Booklet texts (PDF)

Track Listing, MP3 Downloads and Streaming Samples

Track No. Track Title / Details Duration Sample Add to Cart
DOWNLOAD COMPLETE ALBUM 79:26
1 Grande Fantaisie sur airs nationals Russes pour Le Pianoforté avec accompagnement d’Orchestre, Op. 4 (1852)

Mily Balakirev, composer
Joseph Banowetz, piano
Russian Philharmonic of Moscow, orchestra
Konstantin Krimets, conductor

(first recording)
18:20 play
2-11 30 Songs of the Russian People – dukhovnaya
(spiritual songs associated with particular Orthodox feast-days) (c. 1898)

Mily Balakirev, composer
Olga Kalugina, soprano
Svetlana Nikolaeva, mezzo soprano
Pavel Kolgatin, tenor
Joseph Banowetz and Alton Chung Ming Chan, piano duet

(first folksong recordings)
10:40
2 No. 1 (folksong): ‘Dormition of the Mother of God’ 0:53 play
3 No. 1 (piano duet): ‘Dormition of the Mother of God’ 1:12 play
4 No. 2 (folksong): ‘Egoriy the Brave’ 1:17 play
5 No. 2 (piano duet): ‘Egoriy the Brave’ 1:13 play
6 No. 3 (folksong): ‘Lazar’ 0:53 play
7 No. 3 (piano duet): ‘Lazar’ 1:03 play
8 No. 4 (folksong): ‘The Last Judgement’ 1:33 play
9 No. 4 (piano duet): ‘The Last Judgement’ 0:54 play
10 No. 5 (folksong): ‘The Book of the Dove’ 0:38 play
11 No. 5 (piano duet): ‘The Book of the Dove’ 1:04 play
12-25 30 Songs of the Russian People – bylina
(epic songs about historical characters) (c. 1898)

Mily Balakirev, composer
Olga Kalugina, soprano
Svetlana Nikolaeva, mezzo soprano
Pavel Kolgatin, tenor
Joseph Banowetz and Alton Chung Ming Chan, piano duet

(first folksong recordings)
15:47
12 No. 6 (folksong): ‘The King’s Sons from Kraków’ 1:01 play
13 No. 6 (piano duet): ‘The King’s Sons from Kraków’ 1:49 play
14 No. 7 (folksong): ‘Kostruk’ 0:45 play
15 No. 7 (piano duet): ‘Kostruk’ 1:11 play
16 No. 8 (folksong): ‘Nikita Romanovich’ 1:02 play
17 No. 8 (piano duet): ‘Nikita Romanovich’ 1:57 play
18 No. 9 (folksong): ‘Grisha Otrepyev’ 0:59 play
19 No. 9 (piano duet): ‘Grisha Otrepyev’ 1:00 play
20 No. 10 (folksong): ‘Vasiliy Okulyevic’ 0:44 play
21 No. 10 (piano duet): ‘Vasiliy Okulyevic’ 0:56 play
22 No. 11 (folksong): ‘The Razvoinik Brothers and their Sister’ 0:55 play
23 No. 11 (piano duet): ‘The Razvoinik Brothers and their Sister’ 2:17 play
24 No. 12 (folksong): ‘Birds and Animals’ 0:47 play
25 No. 12 (piano duet): ‘Birds and Animals’ 0:24 play
26-45 30 Songs of the Russian People – wedding songs (c. 1898)

Mily Balakirev, composer
Olga Kalugina, soprano
Svetlana Nikolaeva, mezzo soprano
Pavel Kolgatin, tenor
Joseph Banowetz and Alton Chung Ming Chan, piano duet

(first folksong recordings)
20:15
26 No. 13 (folksong): ‘They Said: Fedot-Ot doesn’t drink beer…’ 0:46 play
27 No. 13 (piano duet): ‘They said: Fedot-ot doesn’t drink beer…’ 0:50 play
28 No. 14 (folksong): ‘There were no winds…’ 1:11 play
29 No. 14 (piano duet): ‘There were no winds…’ 0:47 play
30 No. 15 (folksong): ‘Are you, my river, little river…’ 2:09 play
31 No. 15 (piano duet): ‘Are you, my river, little river…’ 0:47 play
32 No. 16 (folksong): ‘Oh, drinking berry…’ 0:47 play
33 No. 16 (piano duet): ‘Oh, drinking berry…’ 0:36 play
34 No. 17 (folksong): ‘Many, many by a damp oak tree…’ 0:45 play
35 No. 17 (piano duet): ‘Many, many by a damp oak tree…’ 1:00 play
36 No. 18 (folksong): ‘Mummy wasn’t hoping’ 1:21 play
37 No. 18 (piano duet): ‘Mummy wasn’t hoping’ 2:07 play
38 No. 19 (folksong): ‘My girlfriends, dear girlfriends…’ 1:05 play
39 No. 19 (piano duet): ‘My girlfriends, dear girlfriends…’ 0:57 play
40 No. 20 (folksong): ‘Oh, you geese, you geese…’ 1:02 play
41 No. 20 (piano duet): ‘Oh you geese, you geese…’ 0:38 play
42 No. 21 (folksong): ‘Grape-harvest’ 1:02 play
43 No. 21 (piano duet): ‘Grape-harvest’ 1:04 play
44 No. 22 (folksong): ‘There is a tree on a hill’ 0:26 play
45 No. 22 (piano duet): ‘There is a tree on a hill’ 0:55 play
46-51 30 Songs of the Russian People – khorovodnaya
(round-dance songs) (c. 1898)

Mily Balakirev, composer
Olga Kalugina, soprano
Svetlana Nikolaeva, mezzo soprano
Pavel Kolgatin, tenor
Joseph Banowetz and Alton Chung Ming Chan, piano duet

(first folksong recordings)
4:50
46 No. 23 (folksong): ‘I went into the garden’ 0:56 play
47 No. 23 (piano duet): ‘I went into the garden’ 0:32 play
48 No. 24 (folksong): ‘Our wide street’ 0:45 play
49 No. 24 (piano duet): ‘Our wide street’ 0:58 play
50 No. 25 (folksong): ‘Utushnaya’ 0:24 play
51 No. 25 (piano duet): ‘Utushnaya’ 1:15 play
52-61 30 Songs of the Russian People – protyazhnaya
(lyric songs) (c. 1898)

Mily Balakirev, composer
Olga Kalugina, soprano
Svetlana Nikolaeva, mezzo soprano
Pavel Kolgatin, tenor
Joseph Banowetz and Alton Chung Ming Chan, piano duet

(first folksong recordings)
9:34
52 No. 26 (folksong): ‘Rowanberry and Raspberry’ 1:16 play
53 No. 26 (piano duet): ‘Rowanberry and Raspberry’ 0:43 play
54 No. 27 (folksong): ‘What a heart’ 1:04 play
55 No. 27 (piano duet): ‘What a heart’ 1:10 play
56 No. 28 (folksong): ‘It’s enough for you, my dear, to walk in the field’ 1:10 play
57 No. 28 (piano duet): ‘It’s enough for you, my dear, to walk in the field’ 1:03 play
58 No. 29 (folksong): ‘Oh you, winter’ 0:43 play
59 No. 29 (piano duet): ‘Oh you, winter’ 0:39 play
60 No. 30 (folksong): ‘She became, she became a colonel’s wife’ 0:53 play
61 No. 30 (piano duet): ‘She became, she became a colonel’s wife’ 0:53 play

Artists

Mily Balakirev

Mily Balakirev, composer

Joseph Banowetz

Joseph Banowetz, piano

Moscow Symphony Orchestra ‘Russian Philharmonic’

Russian Philharmonic of Moscow, orchestra
[credit: Oleg Nachinkin, 2011]

Konstantin Krimets

Konstantin Krimets, conductor

Olga Kalugina

Olga Kalugina, soprano

Svetlana Nikolaeva

Svetlana Nikolaeva, mezzo soprano

Pavel Kolgatin

Pavel Kolgatin, tenor

Joseph Banowetz and Alton Chung Ming Chan

Joseph Banowetz and Alton Chung Ming Chan, piano duet

Reviews

Both concept and execution of this album are to be applauded!

Perhaps best heard as a piece of musical anthropology rather than a recital, this disc takes the unusual but enlightening step of rendering each folksong first and following it with Balakirev's four-hands piano setting.

Balakirev was an outspoken (and often tactless) champion of Russian national music, acknowledged leader of the 'mighty handful' and hugely influential (if not downright interfering) on Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Mussorgsky and Cui. That little of his music is heard regularly is perhaps surprising, but his list of works is by no means huge, and much of that is for piano, or is in song or choral form. He never really did have any orchestral blockbusters and shunned opera. But here is a chance to hear him feeding at the fount, if you like.

The real interest lies in the thirty folksongs, his second set (published in 1898) where the mature composer, in love with and knowledgeable about his material, balances the demands of the 'peasant' and the 'academic'. The collection is varied, comprising dukhovnye (religious songs), byliny (epic-historical songs), wedding songs, khorovodyne (round dances) and protyazhnye (lyric songs). Having the songs rendered before the piano settings is actually quite exposing for a composer when you think about it, and it has to be said that Balakirev comes out of it well, allowing the harmony to develop from the modal monody of the songs, and when introducing chromaticism, making it decorative so that it does not detract. He also has an essential ability for folksong-setters, that of finding appropriate accompanimental figures but not allowing them to overshadow the song line.

Toccata Classics' production of this CD is to be commended. For variety, three singers render the folksongs: soprano Olga Kalugina gives lively and fresh-faced characterisation to her pieces, while mezzo Svetlana Nikolayeva at times tries to imbue perhaps a little too much gravitas into proceedings, tending to overproduce for the material. Tenor Pavel Kolgatin has a choral rather than operatic voice and brings a bucolic innocence which is entirely in place. Duo pianists Banowetz and Alton Chung Ming Chan have the flexibility and lightness of touch needed for folk settings.

The trilingual booklet does not contain song texts, but a summary of each song by Igor Prokhorov and Nicholas Walker, the latter also providing the erudite introductory notes. Both concept and execution of this album are to be applauded. Those who wish to drink at the well of Slavic music should add it to their collection.

Paul Sarcich Music & Vision 31st October 2007

Toccata Classics' Balakirev and Russian Folksong offers one of the most direct perspectives offered so far on Balakirev's work!

If Russian composer Mikhail Glinka was the father of Russian nationalism, Mili Balakirev was its St. Peter, evangelizing to fellow apostles Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin and others and therefore acting as "the rock" whereupon Glinka's church was built. Nevertheless, the Balakirev works that have been available on disc for the most part — the glittering, Lisztian piano fantasia Islamey, the lush and orientalist tone poem Tamara and his quirky, idiosyncratic symphonies — certainly sound "Russian," but provide little evidence of what it was in Balakirev's music that motivated the "Mighty Handful" to follow his lead. An 1866 collection of folksongs harmonized by Balakirev is often cited in relevant literature as breaking the ground for first generation of Russian Nationalists.

Not that this was in any way an easy thing to achieve — the main supporters of concert life in Russia in Balakirev's time was made up among educated nobles, aristocrats, bureaucrats, well-to-do military officers and others who looked down upon Russian folksong as the unworthy, culturally poor product of illiterate serfs and peasants. In Russia, the serfs were liberated in 1861, a little later than in most European nations, though not, incidentally, than England! Nevertheless, in 1852 the fourteen-year-old Balakirev was already making an honest stab at working what he thought were their melodies into his Grand Fantasia on Russian Folksongs for piano and orchestra Op. 4, recorded on Toccata Classics' Balakirev and Russian Folksong for the first time.

Performed by pianist Joseph Banowetz with the Russian Philharmonic of Moscow under Konstantin Krimets, the work is far more sophisticated and involved than one would surmise from a composer so young, although the example of Chopin's piano concerti — the use of glittering sequences in the solo part and of a spare, restrained orchestral component — is readily apparent. While the piece consists of moderate and slow movements only and is technically unfinished, it still feels like a coherent whole even as Balakirev left it.

The main event, though, is the 30 Songs of the Russian People, a collection of folk song harmonizations Balakirev created and published in 1898-1900. Balakirev did not collect the folk melodies personally, as he had in the 1866 volume, and here a two piano version, played by Banowetz and Alton Chung Ming, is favored over the parallel voice and piano edition that appeared at about the same time. In this realization, singers Olga Kalugina, Svetlana Nikolayeva and Pavel Kolgatin sing the original folk melodies, unaccompanied, and Balakirev's piano duet harmonizations follow. Some listeners may feel the back and forth nature of this arrangement is a little disorienting, but it makes good musical sense, and Balakirev's settings deliberately avoid attempting to pin down or to drive the traditional melodies around harmonically. It is easy to hear how this naked approach helped to define the art of setting Russian Folksong, not only for Balakirev's immediate circle, but also for others outside it, such as Tchaikovsky. In sum, Toccata Classics' Balakirev and Russian Folksong offers one of the most direct perspectives offered so far on Balakirev's work as an avatar of traditionally tinged Russian Western Art Music.

Uncle Dave Lewis All Music

Russian Settings of Robert Burns

Russian admiration for the poetry of Robert Burns dates not, as might be supposed, from the nineteenth century but from the Communist era, when Burns was regarded as a kind of people's poet. […] The ideological complexities involved in this music shouldn't obscure the fact that it's for the most part a lot of fun, and the performances by Ukrainian-British bass-baritone Vassily Savenko are enthusiastic and confident. He is ably accompanied by Aleksandr Blok, a relative of the poet of the same name. Another intriguing hour from the consistently original Toccata Classics label.

James Manheim All Music

Haunting songs in original form and set for pianos make engrossing listening

Here is a very unusual record of the utmost fascination for anyone with a love of Russian music. The point of it is not really the most substantial work, the Grand Fantasia which the youthful Balakirev wrote as a touring piece for demonstration of his formidable keyboard skills, played with suitable flamboyance here, but the sequence of folksongs and his settings of them.

In a nutshell, the 30 folksongs of Balakirev’s second collection are first sung in their original, raw form, then as set by him for piano duet. They are divided into five groups: sacred, historical (byliny), wedding songs, round dance songs of the kind familiar right the way across Eastern Europe down to the Balkans, and the so-called protyazhnaya or “drawn-out” song particular to Russia. Anyone who has come across Rimsky-Korsakov’s collections will immediately note the difference in quality, which is essentially that Rimsky-Korsakov is trying to present the melodies in the way most attractive to Western ears, while Balakiev is finding ways of harmonising them that grow out of their individual and very non-European nature.

The results are gripping. The folksongs were recorded in Moscow by three singers who have them in their blood; Balakirev’s arrangements were recorded by the piano duet partners in America. In every case Balakirev’s treatment enhances rather than “translates” the songs, and not the least of the interest is to listen to the original again after hearing Balakirev. Of course it would have been good to have all the words printed in the booklet, but the detailed individual commentaries (in three languages) by Igor Prokhorov and Nicholas Walker provide a more than adequate guide to these haunting songs and their astonishing originality.

John Warrack Gramophone

Comments

0 comments – add a comment