Don’t be put off by the back cover notes being in Russian, as well as the first half of the enclosed note booklet. The second half is an English translation. There is no date given for the original recordings, as usual, but they are probably from the Soviet era, which usually means fairly crude sonically. However, these CDs are quite listenable, though with that patina of artificial reverb which was the SOP of Soviet era recordings.
I don’t recall if there are other recordings of the complete ballet. I recently reviewed a video DVD of it so was familiar with the scenario and enjoyed the two discs. I think the music is better than the rather corny scenario. Though it does provide supernatural creatures, ghosts, visions, a nasty A Saracen prince on the make, and impressively lavish mass dancing displays for the big wedding at the end. The story comes from a medieval legend. And should probably stay there. There are altogether 58 separate cues in the score over the three-act ballet, including many lovely themes which move on to the next theme before they become boring. Some are as short as 30 seconds. The tenor of the score is sort of slightly-modernized Tchaikovsky – Glazunov was the arch conservative and leader of his generation of Russian composers.
Conductor Fedotov had a long career in Russian musical life. He was a professor at St. Petersburg Conservatory, made many recordings, and worked scoring films for LenFilm Studios. He was the subject of a 1993 film “I Live Within Music; It is by Music that I Live.” Fedotov died in 2001.(If the full two hours of the complete ballet sounds a bit foreboding or too expensive, there is a fine single-CD version by Neeme Järvi and the Scottish National Orch. on Chandos in better sonics.)
– John Sunier