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Famed for his colossal stature and rigorous rehearsal methods, Evgeny Mravinsky is generally considered to be the greatest of all Soviet conductors. The maestro was appointed chief of the elite Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra in 1938 – a post lasting 50 years and which gave rise to a truly remarkable partnership, as evident in this three-disc set. Beginning with a whistle-stop tour of Tchaikovsky’s best-known orchestral works, the compilation embarks on a series of monumental readings – striking for their cleansing of tempo and refusal to hyperdramatise. Mravinsky’s interpretation of this composer’s music was a revelation to Western ears at the time, and the combination of energy and precision that he dedicates to compositions such as the Nutcracker Suite and Symphony No.5 is to be found across the entire collection. From Rimsky-Korsakov’s dazzling Tale of the Invisible City of Kitezh Suite to Glinka’s brilliant Ruslan and Ludmilla overture, the set brims with atmospheric performances taken from live recordings spanning nearly two decades. It’s easy to hear why the Leningrad Philharmonic became known as the ‘best orchestra in Russia’ under Mravinsky’s command. Full of wonderfully sonorous playing, this release represents a small chapter of history in detailing one of music’s most fascinating relationships.
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