Like so many Russian musicians, Mravinsky seemed first headed toward a career in the sciences. He studied biology at St. Petersburg University, but had to quit in 1920 after his father's death. To support himself, he signed on with the Imperial Ballet as a rehearsal pianist. In 1923, he finally enrolled in the Leningrad Conservatory, where he studied composition with Vladimir Shcherbachov and conducting with Alexander Gauk and Nikolai Malko. He graduated in 1931, and left his Imperial Ballet job to become a musical assistant and ballet conductor at the Bolshoi Opera from 1931 to 1937, with a stint at the Kirov from 1934. Mravinsky gave up these posts in 1938, after winning first prize in the All-Union Conductors' Competition in Moscow, to become principal conductor of the Leningrad Philharmonic. He remained there until his death, long ignoring many guest-conducting offers from abroad. Under Mravinsky's direction the Leningrad Philharmonic came to be regarded as one of the finest orchestras in the world, although the world had comparatively few opportunities to hear it aside from the rare tour (about 30 performances in 25 years, starting in 1956), some dim Soviet recordings, and a very few highly acclaimed records for such Western European companies as Deutsche Grammophon and, in the end, Erato.
“Setting Rostropovich, an impetuously Slavonic musician if ever there was one, in front of such an unmistakably French orchestra as this produces an intriguing and most attractive blend of Russian fire and colour with Gallic elegance and sentiment,” wrote Gramophone. The relationship between the great cellist-conductor and the Orchestre de Paris achieves glorious expression in this programme of Russian orchestral showpieces.
Andris Nelsons is one of the most sought-after young conductors on the international scene today and once again served notice of his extraordinary talent in Summer 2011 when he conducted two concerts with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam at the prestigious Lucerne Festival. This concert, available on DVD and Blu-ray features, amongst a programme of Rimsky-Korsakov, Beethoven and Dvořák, the Grammy Award-winning pianist Yefim Bronfman performing Beethoven’s majestic Fifth Piano Concerto and Chopin’s Etude in F major.
This release is by Camerata Bariloche with a very nice Classical program issued on the PRICE-LES$ label in 1987.
Even with 15 other versions of Rimsky's masterpiece of orchestral virtuosity to choose from — some in the top flight — this was recognized from the first as one of the most rewarding, thanks largely to Krebbers's exceptionally sweet, gently appealing and bewitching personification of the story - spinning Scheherazade and to Kondrashin's skill in pacing and shaping movements as a whole, relating the diverse tempos and building up tension and dynamics by careful control so as to create climaxes of thrilling intensity and power. the 'shipwreck' finale, in particular, was overwhelming; and this was achieved without resorting to the ultra - fast tempos adopted by some conductors to whip up excitement. The Concertgebouw's crisp, sonorous and sensitive playing (full marks both to the splendid strings and to the wind soloists) was caught with the utmost fidelity; but the Compact Disc's total exclusion even of minimal extraneous background now marks a still further improvement, as can be judged by the dead silence against which Scheherazade's pleadings are heard. The final coda is ravishingly beautiful.