Hyperion Records

Symphony No 2 in D minor
1900/8; first performed in 1909 under Sergei Liapunov in St Petersburg

'Balakirev: Symphonies & Symphonic Poems' (CDD22030)
Balakirev: Symphonies & Symphonic Poems
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Movement 1: Allegro ma non troppo
Track 3 on CDD22030 CD2 [10'05] 2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1)
Movement 2: Scherzo 'alla Cosacca': Allegro non troppo, ma con fuoco ed energico
Track 4 on CDD22030 CD2 [8'37] 2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1)
Movement 3: Romanza: Andante
Track 5 on CDD22030 CD2 [9'08] 2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1)
Movement 4: Finale: Tempo di Polacca
Track 6 on CDD22030 CD2 [8'44] 2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1)

Symphony No 2 in D minor
Balakirev began work on his Symphony No 2 in D minor in 1900, completing it in 1908. It was premiered the following year under the direction of Sergei Liapunov in St Petersburg, and it was performed soon afterwards in Paris. But its subsequent performances have been few, which is a pity, since it is an attractive and inspired work.

Balakirev’s firm grasp of a taut sonata structure is revealed in the first movement; the only contemporary symphony of equal stature which is comparable in this respect is Sibelius’s third (1904–1907). Two abrupt chords lead straight into the first subject, whose basic emphasis is a cross-rhythm of 6/8 and 3/4. The second subject is in the remote key of D flat major, a favourite tonality of Balakirev. After a pithy and ingenious development it is recapitulated (after the first subject) in D major. Such semitonal shifts were an important feature of Balakirev’s style.

The second movement, Scherzo ‘alla Cosacca’—conceived much earlier and originally intended for the first symphony—is the kernel of the whole work. Its classical control is remarkable. After a six-bar introduction, used at strategic points later on, the main theme, in B minor, with its accent on the second crotchet of the phrase, pulsates with vitality, and is followed by a subsidiary motive in which trumpets and trombones are answered by flute and piccolo with charming naivety. A short development and recapitulation establish that the Scherzo is in full sonata form. In the trio the Russian folksong ‘The snow is melting’ is employed; the underlying excitement is maintained by a bustling semiquaver accompaniment. In the compressed reprise of the Scherzo this theme replaces the subsidiary motive, a subtle master stroke.

The slow movement is an engaging Romanza in F major, the second theme of which recurs in the splendidly rhythmical polonaise Finale (again in D minor), infinitely superior, by the way, to the polonaise Finale of Tchaikovsky’s third symphony. The second subject of Balakirev’s Finale, which like its counterpart in the first movement is in D flat major and has an oriental piquancy, is allotted in the first instance to the flavoursome cor anglais; it is based on the folksong ‘We have seen in our garden’. The symphony ends in D major with a triumphant coda.

Terser than Balakirev’s first symphony, this composition is hardly less succinct than the Sibelius symphony already mentioned. Both works are as far as it is possible to be from the contemporary Mahlerian idea of a symphony. Both works are eminently successful, demonstrating that the all-embracingly multi-faceted did not have a monopoly over the selectively concise in the early twentieth century. And both works have been unjustly neglected.

from notes by Edward Garden © 1998

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA66586 track 4
Scherzo 'alla Cosacca': Allegro non troppo, ma con fuoco ed energico
Recording date
5 December 1991
Recording venue
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Antony Howell
Hyperion usage
  1. Balakirev: Symphony No 2 & Tamara (CDA66586)
    Disc 1 Track 4
    Release date: May 1992
    Deletion date: October 1998
    Superseded by CDD22030
  2. Balakirev: Orchestral Music (CDA66691/2)
    Disc 2 Track 4
    Release date: September 1992
    Deletion date: October 1998
    2CDs Superseded by CDD22030
  3. Balakirev: Symphonies & Symphonic Poems (CDD22030)
    Disc 2 Track 4
    Release date: October 1998
    2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1)
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