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Balakirev: Orchestral Works

Super Audio CD
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The music of Mily Balakirev has largely disappeared from concert halls today, and this dewy new recording by the Niederrheinische Symphoniker under the baton of chief conductor Mihkel Kütson comes at just the right time.

The First Piano Concerto, with Dinara Klinton as soloist, plus the Second Symphony and two highly original overtures attest to Balakirev's special place in music history, not least as the spiritus rector of the so-called "Mighty Handful" (or, "The Five").

With the "Mighty Handful", Balakirev and his contemporaries wanted to commit themselves to genuinely Russian music, in contrast to their "Westernised" colleagues Tchaikovsky and Rubinstein. Balakirev even founded his own music school, which dispensed with classical studies with lots of finger exercises and counterpoint lessons - not always to the students' advantage...

Because of his commitment to young musicians, Balakirev often left compositions he had begun lying around for decades. It is uncertain whether this is why the one movement piano concerto remained unfinished. However, the virtuoso work is convincing in every respect: wide-ranging passages of free fantasising hint at Liszt and Chopin as models.

The Second Symphony, which Balakirev was only able to complete towards the end of his life, is also formally idiosyncratic. Russian themes demonstrate Balakirev's deep knowledge of folk music, which he studied on his travels through the Caucasus. With the Niederrheinische Symphoniker, all this sounds fresh and unspent - and in the high-quality 3D recording, it is also an acoustic delight.

Since the beginning of the 2012/13 season, Mihkel Kütson has been general music director of the Niederrheinische Sinfoniker and the theaters in Krefeld and Mönchengladbach. Guest contracts have taken him to the Dresden Semperoper, the Komische Oper Berlin, the Estonian National Opera and the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, among others. Born in Tallinn (Estonia), he first studied in his hometown and then as a scholarship holder of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in the conducting class of Prof. Klauspeter Seibel at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg.


  1. Name
  2. Overture for Orchestra to W. Shakespeare's "King Lear"
  3. Piano Concerto No, 1 in F-Sharp Minor
  4. Overture on Three Russian Folk Songs
  5. Symphony No. 2 in D Minor
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