David Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony perform Russian favorites with finesse and style in spectacular sound.
In 1837, Mikhail Glinka began work on a new opera based on Pushkin's poem Russlan and Ludmilla. The poem told a fantastic tale of intrigue and counter-intrigue, heroism and magic set in pagan Russia. Glinka's music, full of chromaticism and unusual harmonies, convincingly depicts the poem's supernatural nature. This opera, with an overture that has become a favorite of audiences around the world, profoundly influenced such Russian composers as Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and even Stravinsky.
Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov was a second-generation heir to Glinka's nationalistic school of composition. He was a director of the Moscow Conservatory for nearly twenty years. His colorful Caucasian Sketches performed on this recording is a suite in four movements that memoralizes his stay in the pituresque Georgian Caucasus.
The Russian Easter Overture, Op. 36, was written concurrently with Rimsky-Korsakov's most famous work, Scheherazade. For the context of the Russian Easter Overture, Rimsey-Korsakov was inspired by two Biblical passages that preface the score: Psalm 68 and a passage from the gospel of St. Mark. The music was based on an eighteenth-century collection of Orthodox Church canticles.
Only three weeks after Tchaikovsky first read the fifth canto of Dante's Inferno in 1867, he composed the symphonic poem, Francesca da Rimini, about its tragic heroine. The work gained immediate success and was performed widely throughout Europe. Like Francesca da Rimini, Tchaikovsky's most popular opera, Eugene Onegin, portrayed a tragic love story. The Polonaise, heard on this recording, was taken from the last act at a grand ball held at a palace in St. Petersburg.