The Free-Reed Review
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CD Review: Stanislav Venglevski

The Nutcracker Suite
Stanislav Venglevski, bayan


Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Suite

total time: 37:30
Released in 1996
Review number and date: No. 69: October 1997

Label: Independent label
Order from: The Classical Free-Reed, Inc. Online Gift Store

Review by Henry Doktorski:

Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite transcribed for bayan!? Why not? Bach keyboard suites are standard repertoire for classical accordionists (Stefan Hussong has recorded the entire Goldberg Variations on the Thorofon label) as are romantic works like Monti's Czardas and Khachaturian's Sabre Dance. Even Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition has been recorded by Friedrich Lips on the Russian Disc label.

Tchaikovsky himself fashioned a Nutcracker Suite for piano, based on his ballet score for full orchestra. Both of these scores served Venglevski has he prepared his own adaptation. Venglevski's transcription -- which is technically for bayan with three hands, as he often adds a third voice by overdubbing -- is musically satisfying and, in my opinion, accurately reflects the composer's intention.

Because some music of the full-length ballet never made it into the Nutcracker Suite, Venglevski decided to add other sections from the ballet, such as the Children's Galop from the Act I Party Scene, the Spanish Dance, Mother Ginger and the Polichinelles from the Divertissement, and the Coda from the Pas de Deux.

Although I had some reservations about Venglevski's first CD -- Stas! -- I have absolutely no criticisms about this CD. His playing is truly superb and the album is a joy to listen to. The Nutcracker Suite really works in this version for bayan: the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy is light and delicate and the Russian Dance is virile and boisterous. Venglevski knows the bayan and he knows the music: a great combination which makes a great recording.

One thing surprised me when I first listened to the CD: I heard several passages which sounded unplayable on one bayan; there were too many voices in too wide a range. My conclusion that Venglevski recorded some sections of the suite with sound-on-sound technology was confirmed when I personally called him on the phone to ask about this. I must admit, however, that his studio technique was so artistically and tastefully done, that all but the most discriminating listeners would not even recognize that at times there was more than one instrument playing.

Despite its short length (only 37.5 minutes) I think this CD will make a great Christmas gift which will be appreciated by classical music lovers in general as well as free-reed lovers in particular.

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