Author Topic: Balakirev's Balalaika  (Read 6851 times)

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Offline vandermolen

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Balakirev's Balalaika
« on: October 22, 2009, 07:11:16 AM »
Brilliant title don't you think? - I can never usually think of them (it's a clever play on words for those quick enough to spot it  ;D)

Anyway, no thread on Mily Balakirev (1837-1910) so far. He was the leader of the legendary 'Five' Russian composers. He does not seem to have composed that much but what there is is of high quality. In particular I have been greatly enjoying the new Naxos CD of Piano Concerto No 2 (completed by Lyapunov - another underrated composer - try his Symphony No 2). I have selected a photo of the great man himself and some recommendable discs. If you want a good introduction to Balakirev I'd strongly recommend the inexpensive Hyperion Dryad double album conducted by Svetlanov. It is very much in the 19th century Russian tradition but with echoes of Rachmaninov - especially 'Tamara' which has great gloomy atmosphere like Rachmaninov's 'Isle of the Dead'.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2009, 09:17:58 AM »
Clearly not a popular choice  :(

Jowcol, where are you? Do you wish me to dangle in the wind forever?  ;D
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Brahmsian

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2009, 09:19:07 AM »
I will follow this thread.  Although I have never heard any music by Balakirev, I am curious and will want to check out his works and good recording recommendations.  :)

Especially since I'm really addicted to Russian music as of late.

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2009, 09:35:42 AM »
Clearly not a popular choice  :(

You do know how to pick 'em obscure, Vander!  :D

But I can say that I have a nice disc conducted by Kondrashin, with B's 1st Symphony, which I find quite a worthwhile piece. If you like Borodin, you should like this. (Must say though that the coupling is even better - Kalinnikov's 1st)
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Offline listener

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2009, 10:59:46 AM »
Vancouver BC gets to hear his "In Bohemia" and "King Lear" Overtures live this season.
Scores available at http://www.musikmph.de/musical_scores/information/information_e.html
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DFO

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2009, 01:22:56 PM »
His Islamey, besides to be one of the most brilliant and hard
romantic piano pieces, is IMO absolutely beautiful. Simon Barer "owns" it. Late Ronald Smith had a wonderful recording of his piano sonata.

Harry

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2009, 01:46:35 PM »
Most of his Orchestral works I have, and some chamber music. His voice is unique, and for me he is one of the greats in the Russian music history.

DFO

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2009, 02:56:27 PM »
He had a rare one movement of an octet op.3 for piano,
strings and winds with bass.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2009, 03:22:46 PM »
Thanks guys for the replies (nice rhyme  ::))

I think that 'Tamara' is a good place to start, especially if you like works like Rachmaninov's Isle of the Dead. 
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Online SonicMan46

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2009, 05:26:43 PM »
Well, just wanted to join this thread!  :)

Balakirev is certainly an historic Russian composer and a major influence, as already mentioned (i.e. the Russian Five).

Currently I own just 2 discs of this composer, both shown below (one mentioned early already) - looking forward to other recommendations:

 

Offline Gabriel

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #10 on: October 24, 2009, 03:05:16 AM »
I own some Balakirev CDs, and among them two double CD sets of orchestral works conducted by Svetlanov: one in Hyperion, the other in Melodiya. There is really some great music there (I am particularly fond of the marvelous slow movement of the first symphony).

Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2009, 05:28:43 AM »
Brilliant title don't you think?

Indeed  :D  I spotted your new thread this afternoon, began reading, then checked to see if I owned any of his music--I couldn't recall. My catalogue turned up one CD.



I'm not sure I ever listened to it after the initial spin. It's been gathering dust many years (the price sticker on the jewel box is in Deutsch Mark so I purchased it before the turn of the century). Anyway, I'm listening to it now and yes, I like Tamara. Thanks for making me dig through my collection  :)

Sarge
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Offline monafam

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #12 on: October 24, 2009, 07:44:05 AM »
I think I have three CDs with Balakirev's works (including Sarge's above).  I really like his works. 

Online SonicMan46

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #13 on: October 24, 2009, 07:58:09 AM »
Well after posting that I had just 2 discs of Balakirev's compositions, I became curious regarding 'how much' he had written; found a Wiki List HERE - not a lot and not much in available recorded offerings (i.e. of recordings just dedicated to him):

Symphonies - 2; Piano Concertos - 2; Piano Sontats - 2; Overtures, Tone Poems, other orchestral works - more.

Solo Piano - much, but not many recordings seem available - but would be curious to explore this aspect of his output -  :)

Songs - a couple of dozen (many w/ dates, and others not dated).

Chamber Works - I see just one Octet listed in the link!

Thus, seems like the non-symphonic orchestral compositions and the solo piano works are my main options beyond what I already own?  :-\


Offline Opus106

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #14 on: October 24, 2009, 08:33:30 AM »
Thus, seems like the non-symphonic orchestral compositions and the solo piano works are my main options beyond what I already own?  :-\

Dave, all his chamber works (yes, I said all :D) are works he left in an unfinished state per allmusic.com. Apart from the octet, he has written music for a string quartet and for the cello-and-piano duo. But there appears to be a lot of choral works to choose from :), although I don't know how many of them are available in the recorded format.
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Drasko

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #15 on: October 24, 2009, 08:47:14 AM »
Solo Piano - much, but not many recordings seem available - but would be curious to explore this aspect of his output -  :)

Yes, much, but from selections I heard most of it is romantic, Chopin-molded salon stuff. Lots of mazurkas, waltzes, nocturnes and usually just tad too long for their material. Here and there you can find really beautiful piece but mostly it's just perfect dinner background music, hardly more.
Of course Islamey is very different and I'm told one of the sonatas is very good.

My favorite Balakirev piece overall is 1st Symphony, I think it easily holds its own compared to other Russian romantic fare. Favorite recording would be early-ish Svetlanov on Revelation coupled with Rozhdestvensky's very good take on 2nd. I think it can be found relatively cheap from amazon marketplaces.

Offline Gabriel

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #16 on: October 24, 2009, 01:30:20 PM »
I just remembered another Balakirev favourite of mine: the piano arrangement of Glinka's song The Skylark. It is as beautiful as the original song (and the original song is really beautiful).

Offline Lethevich

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #17 on: October 24, 2009, 04:54:16 PM »


I relistened to the above CDs and found the music to be decent, but sub-Borodin, who himself is far from perfect anyway. Hearing the Promeade-esque tune in the scherzo of the 2nd symphony reminded me just how much better it sounds in the orchestrated versions of Mussorsky's Pictures. I'm possibly being too harsh, but I felt the same last time I listened as well - there is an overriding feeling of a skeletal emptiness in the symphonic structures, despite some appealing tunes. Considering what, for example, Dvoř├ík would do with the same material is a depressing thought, because as much as I would like to think that Balakirev at least excells in his own niche - even if that niche precludes him from greatness - I instead consider how much better the music could be with more compositional ability behind it (Glazunov would be the opposite problem - all the ability, none of the ideas).
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #18 on: October 24, 2009, 11:21:59 PM »
Indeed  :D  I spotted your new thread this afternoon, began reading, then checked to see if I owned any of his music--I couldn't recall. My catalogue turned up one CD.



I'm not sure I ever listened to it after the initial spin. It's been gathering dust many years (the price sticker on the jewel box is in Deutsch Mark so I purchased it before the turn of the century). Anyway, I'm listening to it now and yes, I like Tamara. Thanks for making me dig through my collection  :)

Sarge

Yes, that's one of the two CDs now in the excellent budget Hyperion Dryad set. Thanks again for all the replies. I am digging out my Lyapunov CDs today for an even more obscure thread in due course  8)

No. he didn't write much being something of a perfectionist. Beecham was an admirer - there is a famous old EMI recording of Symphony No 1 (see below) but I prefer the BBC Legends version.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2009, 11:28:21 PM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline listener

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Re: Balakirev's Balalaika
« Reply #19 on: October 25, 2009, 11:20:16 AM »
miserable weather day, so I decided to listen to Marco Polo 8.220 324
"Keep your hand on the throttle and your eye on the rail as you walk through life's pathway."