KlassikNet: 101 Best Classical CDs
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101 Best Classical Music CDs:
Romanticism in Russia and Eastern Europe
(Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Rimsky-Korsakov)

MUSSORGSKY (1839 - 1881): Boris Godunov
Mark Reizen, Maria Maksakova, Georgy Nelepp, Elena Kruglikova, Ivan Kozlovsky, Maxim Mikhaélov, Vassili Lubenzov
Bolshoi Chorus and Orchestra
Nicolai Golovanov
3 CDs Arlecchino ARL 121-123

Okay, fine, so it sounds scratched and there is no libretto. But what atmosphere! Boris Godunov is the story of a nobleman at the end of the 16th century who, in order to become Czar, had an infant's throat slashed. Supported by legendary artists, the seven-foot Soviet bass Mark Reizen was as much Boris in this 1948 Moscow recording as Schwarzenegger was Terminator or, if you prefer, James Earl Jones was the voice of Darth Vader.

MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881): Pictures at an Exhibition (+ Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Ravel, Schumann, Weber)
Benno Moiseiwitsch, piano

Like David Niven, pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch was the epitome of distinction. Born in 1890 in Odessa (which at the time was a remarkable reservoir of pianists), Benno Moiseiwitsch possessed an unsurpassed knowledge of the keyboard. The Pictures at an Exhibition are a real war horse. Moiseiwitsch's (1945) recording takes what in so many recordings is a tireseome schlep through a gallery and opens your eyes to its real glories.

TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893): Symphonies no 4, 5 + 6
Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra
Yevgeny Mravinsky, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon

Nobody can resist Tchaikovsky's last three symphonies when conducted by Mravinsky. Those who pretend the contrary are lying. Head of the Leningrad Philharmonic for half a century, Yevgeny Mravinsky (1903-1988) terrorized his musicians....his audiences too.

TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893): Piano Concerto no 1 (+ Mussorgsky)
Vladimir Horowitz, piano
NBC Symphony Orchestra
Arturo Toscanini, conductor

Nobody can resist Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto in the hands of Horowitz and Toscanini. Those who claim the contrary are liars. In this 1940 "live" performance Horowitz throws himself on the finale like a vampire on his victim.

TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893): Nutcracker Ballet - Serenade for Strings
London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Hungarica
Antal Dorati, conductor

Music of exquisite madness with a slight hint of scandal, the Nutcracker Ballet was the Grateful Dead of its time. Tchaikovsky used instrumental combinations as unheard of in his day as the Grateful Dead's use of harmonics in rock in theirs. The famous Mercury sound engineering accentuates even more the acid trip effect.

DVORAK (1841-1904): Symphony no 9 "From the New World"
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Karel Ancerl, conductor

Anton Dvorak's "New World" Symphony is a veritable post-card vision of America as seen by a Czech composer still mad about Brahms and German music. Despite other world-class versions (Kubelik/Berlin, Deutsche Grammophon; Fricsay/Berlin, Deutsche Grammophon; Toscanini/NBC, RCA-BMG...), Ancerl's super-Czech version remains the ne plus ultra.

DVORAK (1841-1904): Cello Concerto
Mstislav Rostropovitch, cello
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Vaclav Talich, conductor

Dvorak's Cello Concerto is the most famous and most often played of the repertoire for this instrument. There are some ten recordings of this work by the Russian-born Mstislav Rostropovitch (including pirate-versions). Splendid recordings for the most part, his first recording, made in Prague in the '50s, is still the most arresting.

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908): Shéhérazade - Capriccio Espagnol - Russian Easter Festival Overture
Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam
Kirill Kondrashin, Igor Markevitch

Rimsky-Korsakov never feared the critics. With its heavy-duty bazar orientalism, Shéhérazade has the irresistible kitsch of Marlene Dietrich in Kismet. Still, let yourself be seduced by this highly effective Russian music that Stravinsky copied more than once.

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