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John Puccio
Sensible Sound, December 2001

"They are all played with polish and grace...Ms. Nishizaki plays beautifully, incidentally, and for the fiver may be worth the price of the disc."

Michael Jameson, July 2001

"Track 10 of this compilation (it has the rather saccharine title 'Russian Romance') purports to be an arrangement for violin and orchestra of the Song of the Volga Boatmen. In a gesture of what seems like unbelievably cavalier plagiarism, Peter Breiner's version begins - unaltered and note for note - with a quite substantial chunk (the dark-toned 'fate' clarinet theme) lifted from the slow preface to the main exposition section of the opening movement of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5. What follows, a remarkably sensitive conjunction between the folk-song theme itself and the Tchaikovsky motif, almost makes such audacious thematic abuse seem justified, and this, like many a Peter Breiner transcription, is very effective indeed. And if it seems initially hard to know why something as benignly titled as Lev Knipper's Meadowland opens in Breiner's version with stabbing fortissimo unison chords that could have come out of Kaschei's infernal dance in The Firebird, again question not the reasons why, just enjoy the music! The balalaika-band favorite Moscow Nights (aka Midnight in Moscow) starts with a curtain-raising orchestral flourish that could grace the opening credits of any 1950s Hollywood blockbuster, but the ingenuity and wealth of incident in these Breiner orchestrations is never less engaging than in the cultivated solo violin playing of Takako Nishizaki, wife of Naxos boss Klaus Heymann. Orchestral contributions from the Queensland Symphony under Breiner are more than acceptable, as is the well-balanced recording, made at ABC's Brisbane studios in 1994. Enjoy!"

Richard Perry
Ottawa Citizen, July 2001

"The most surprising thing about a new Naxos disc titled Russian Romance is how well the performances avoid sprawling into kitsch. Just consider the obvious perils: a program of heart-on-sleeve Russian folk melodies arranged for solo violin and orchestra, including such potboilers as Song of the Volga Boatmen and Dark Eyes (Ochi chornya) ...Despite one's dire premonitions, however, the hour-long concert works extraordinarily well. Nishizaki, Naxos's fine house violinist, plays with an admirable combination of refinement and passion, and the well-rehearsed Queensland Symphony Orchestra offers more precision and full-bodied eloquence than one could possible anticipate. At the heart of the matter are Breiner's adept arrangements which eschew sentimentality while balancing orchestra grandeur with folk music intimacy. True, a few simple themes suffer a tad too much recapitulation, but if you enjoy broad melodies, fine fiddling and splashy orchestral colour, this international venture should stir your spirits. The sound recording, taped in Brisbane, is outstanding."

"Nishizaki, Naxos's fine house violinist, plays with an admirable combination of refinement and passion, and the well-rehearsed Queensland Symphony Orchestra offers more precision and full-bodied eloquence than one could possible anticipate."

Chris Goddard
MusicWeb International, July 2001

"This disc is a feast of fun. A Japanese violinist plays Russian folksongs arranged by a Slovak accompanied by a leading Australian orchestra. The recipe could be as bland as 'international cuisine', but instead we're offered a tasty selection of familiar Russian morsels in arrangements which delight the aural palate and tease the intellect.

Takako Nishizaki will be a familiar name to regular Naxos listeners. Her recording of the Butterfly Lovers Concerto has sold more than three million copies in China while that of the Four Seasons has almost topped one million worldwide. She has more than 100 CDs to her name.

Peter Breiner, who here conducts the excellent Queensland Symphony Orchestra, has arranged twelve Russian songs in a variety of styles. The selection opens with 'Snow Flurries' by early nineteenth century composer Alexander Varlamov. Breiner starts by giving us a straightforward Russian arrangement but near the end it takes a wrong turning and ends up in a baroque fugue.

Breiner springs a few surprises on us. 'Moscow Nights' - familiar as the callsign of the old Radio Moscow - is given an extended treatment of over five minutes. 'Stenka Razin' is the original of the song better known as in the West as 'The Carnival is over'. 'Meadowland' is a highly dramatic arrangement of one of those archetypical Russian melodies that everyone knows and no-one can name. In this case it comes originally from Lev Knipper's Fourth Symphony. The 'Song of the Volga Boatmen' is equally familiar, but did Tchaikovsky realise that it works in near-perfect counterpoint with the opening of his Fifth Symphony? This arrangement, at almost seven minutes, is Breiner's tour de force.

A folksong, familiar from Stravinsky's Petrouchka, rounds off a pleasant hour of listening. Breiner's arrangement of 'Along the Peterskaya Road' (also known as 'Down the Petersky') is delightful, subtle in its orchestra effects, and beautifully played by Takako Nishizaki.

Naxos's recording is both warm and clear, and well balanced between soloist and orchestra."

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