Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kalinnikov, the forgotten Russian

Time has not been kind to Russian composer Vasily Kalinnikov (1866-1901), but then again neither was life. Dying at age 34 of tuberculosis, he never got the chance to fulfill his promise as a composer completely. In particular his two symphonies, composed 1894-1897, show what a talented craftsman he was. These works, both just shy of 40 minutes, are full of folk song like melodies and ballet invitations, and root firmly in the Russian tradition of say Rimsky-Korsakov. Do not expect hidden gems to rival the likes of Brahms, Dvorak or Tchaikovsky, but these works can hold their own against the symphonies of Balakirev or Raff. Great performances as well by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine under Theodore Kuchar. A bargain.