Review by: David Hurwitz
Artistic Quality: 9
Sound Quality: 9
Nikolai Tcherepnin (1873-1943) was the father of Alexander, who might be just a smidge better known. A pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov, he was a composer of some talent, and believe it or not this is the second complete recording of his ballet Narcisse et Echo. The work explores a world quite similar to that in Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé: a highly stylized, brightly colored and vividly beautiful vision of classical Greece, complete with wordless vocalise and similarly evocative sounds. This is good stuff, and if you love the Ravel, then Narcisse allows you revisit the scene of the crime, as it were, and spend a very pleasant fifty minutes or so luxuriating in the music’s exquisite orchestral textures and danceable rhythms.
Believe it or not, the ballet was recorded previously, by Gennady Rozhdestvensky for Chandos, a very fine version too. However, on this CD, conductor Luasz Borowicz knocks about five minutes off of the work’s total playing time, making the experience just that much livelier and removing any suspicion that Tcherepnin’s inspiration might be flagging here and there. I remember thinking, hearing that earlier recording, that a tambourine can seem like a dangerous weapon in his hands–but not this time.
You also get a coupling: eight minutes of lovely, dreamy nostalgia in the form of La Princesse Lointaine, an early symphonic poem (Tcherepnin’s Op. 4) that Ravel would have called “Pavane for a Distant Princess” instead of a dead one. In short, there’s nothing not to love, and much to enjoy. Excellent engineering, and completely confident playing from the Bamberg Symphony rounds out this very attractive release.
Reference Recording: none