Of course, variations are, by their very nature, bound to facilitate divergent styles, whereas the more ambitious String Quartet "B-La-F" (Belyayev's notational signature) saw Rimsky fashion the hefty opening Allegro, Liadov the charming Scherzo, Borodin a brief Spanish-style Serenade and Glazunov round things off with a highly professional finale. A nice idea, yes, but hardly a cogent musical argument. I rather preferred this CD's title piece, a Belyayev birthday present concocted by Glazunov, Liadov and Rimsky, affably melodious and rich in Slavic resonances.
The performances are vigorous, warm and somewhat unrefined, the recordings fairly close-set (with some audible pre-echo) and the annotation extremely helpful. Inessential, perhaps - but a most attractive (and instructive) indulgence.
Next week on the Record Reviews page: Robert Cowan reviews the Beulah reissue of Edouard van Beinum's 1940s recording of Elgar's Cello Concerto; Stephen Johnson and Edward Seckerson compare notes on Wolfgang Holzmair's new Philips recording of Schumann's DichterliebeReuse content