Alexander Kitschin conducts = TCHAIKOVSKY: Ouverture Solennelle “1812,” Op. 49;
Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64; GLAZUNOV: Stenka Razin, Op. 13 – Ural Cossacks Choir/Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Berlin State Opera Orchestra (Op. 64)/Alexander Kitschin – Pristine Audio PASC 268, 72:21 [Avail. in various formats from www.pristineclassical.com] ****:
Here is a real find, a Russian conductor whose personal data remains virtually inaccessible–excepting his marriage to soprano Xenia Belmas–but whose orchestral inscriptions testify to a monumental personality! Mark Obert-Thorn has revitalized–although these Grammophon/Polydors speak quite eloquently for themselves–three major Russian works recorded 1928-1929 in Berlin at a time when Leo Blech explored something of the same repertory. But Kitschin’s explosive temperament–in the manner of Willem Mengelberg and Albert Coates–reveals itself equally capable of controlled intimacy; and were it not for the unfortunate cut in the last movement of the Tchaikovsky E Minor Symphony, I would both award this disc 5 stars and recommend the disc for Best of the Year honors.
The performance of Glazunov’s 1885 nationalist score Stenka Razin captures its pietistic homage to the Cossack leader executed in 1672. The “Volga Boatmen” motif receives warm illumination in B Minor before more energetic figures depict raids made by Razin on Russian villages. The coloring is all Borodin, to whom Glazunov dedicated the piece. A “Persian” theme of some languor invokes the princess of Razin’s affections. The brass fanfares at the conclusion attest to the kind of rousing sound the BPO could muster for a conductor who lights their fancy, like Fried or obviously, Kitschin.
Not since a recording of the 1812 Overture from RCA with Igor Bouketoff some forty years ago have I been shaken by its jingoistic homage to the Russian victory over Napoleon at Borodino. The Ural Cossack Choir intones with that deep guttural chest tone from the basses that heralds a plea–the Slavic Orthodox Troparion–for God’s intervention. The potent sweep of the figures urges us forward, with periods of dance, the folk song “At the Gate, at My Gate.” Kitschin opts for the usual string arrangement here, wherein Bouketoff utilized children’s voices. Like Mengelberg, Kitschin does not eschew slides and portamento to increase the voltage and wring the heart. The ineluctable confluence of themes–Russian versus La Marseillaise–bursts with musical, not mechanical, explosions of the first order, vibrant, rousing, intense.
The performance of the Fifth Symphony–to extend the Mengelberg analogy–demonstrates an interpretive willfulness that will appall some but inflame others. The cyclical fate leitmotif having been established, Kitschin proceeds into a resolute march whose eddies of emotion and–almost coming to a pregnant halt in the momentum–balletic excursions never deter him from the mission at hand. Even more stylistically effective comes the Andante cantabile, a lyrical outpouring rife with the color elements of legato and pizzicato, slides and ritards, luftpausen and sudden accelerandi, that virtually sails in our consciousness, a song of heroic proportions. A wistful Valse relishes the various woodwind colors as the string bass notes throb in accompaniment. When the scurrying motif of the middle section and the main theme blend in counterpoint, the effect contrives a magic quite disarming in spite of our long familiarity with the score. Once again, I lament the fact that Kitschin–like Willem Mengelberg and Malcolm Sargent–breaks the continuity of what had proceeded as a passionately feverish Allegro vivace portion of the last movement with a drastic cut, spoiling my purist’s sensibility but still communicating ardor and even frenzy in the final pages – quite a testament to an unbridled virtuoso discipline. I didn’t award five stars, but you can if you like.
— Gary Lemco