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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

Richard Strauss – Don Quixote Viktor Simon / Gennady Rozhdestvensky

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This week’s installment of Vinyl’s Revenge proposes a vintage Melodiya recording (re-issued by ABC Classics in North America) of Richard StraussDon Quixote.

According to an article from NPR, the conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky was an immense presence in Russian musical life during much of the Soviet era and an artist who championed the likes of composers Dmitri Shostakovich, Alfred Schnittke and Sofia Gubaidulina.

Rozhdestvensky seemed predestined for a life in music. His mother, Natalya Rozhdestvenskaya, was a soprano; his father, Nikolai Anosov, was a noted conductor and teacher. Unusually for that time and place, Rozhdestvensky took on his mother's surname rather than use Anosov — possibly simply to distinguish himself from his father, but it was a tactic that also helped him to dodge accusations of nepotism as he rose in his career.

Rozhdestvensky was the former principal conductor of the USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2000, he was named general artistic director of the Bolshoi Theatre. In addition, he was a guest conductor at several other prominent podiums, including at the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra and Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

Although he was best known internationally for his work within the Russian repertoire, and most especially with the living Russian composers of his prime, Rozhdestvensky also brought foreign works to his home audience, including the first performance in Russia of Benjamin Britten's opera A Midsummer Night's Dream and the first complete cycle of Ralph Vaughan Williams' symphonies. With the Soviet orchestra, he recorded the complete symphonies of Shostakovich, Alexander Glazunov and Alfred Schnittke — and also Anton Bruckner and Arthur Honegger — for Melodiya, the Soviet state-owned record label for which he was one of the earliest and most prolific recording artists.

Rather than digging out a recording of his from his core repertoire, I chose an eloquent and elegant version of Strauss’ tine poem/concertante variations inspired by Cervantes’ characters; the solo cello representing Don Quixote, and the solo viola, tenor tuba, and bass clarinet depicting his squire Sancho Panza.

Initially founded in 1930, the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra was sometimes known as the USSR State Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra, the USSR State Radio Symphony Orchestra, or the USSR All-Union National Radio and Central Television Symphony Orchestra. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the orchestra was renamed in 1993 by the Russian Ministry of Culture in recognition of the central role the music of Tchaikovsky plays in its repertoire.

Happy Listening

Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Don Quixote, "Phantastische Variationen über ein Thema ritterlichen Charakters", op. 35 [TrV 184]

Viktor Simon (cello) with I Boguslavsky (viola) and M Chernyakhovsky (violin)
Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio
Genady Rozhdestvensky , conducting

Place and date of recording: Moscow, 7. 2. 1973
Label: ABC Classics ‎– AB-67023
(Reissue of Мелодия ‎– 33СМ 04061-2)
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album, Stereo
Country: USSR
Released: 1973

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