Mussorgsky and Co too much of a handful

Philip Edward Fisher delivers an uneven compilation of works by the five Russian composers known as 'The Mighty Handful'.

Title: The Mighty Handful
Balakirev, Borodin, Cui, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov
Repertoire:  Piano works
Artists: Philip Edward Fisher
Rating:  3/5
Genre: Instrumental
Label: Chandos CHAN 10676

The Music: Balakirev, Borodin, Cui, Mussorgsky, Rimsky- Korsakov – five very different, roughly contemporary, Russian composers dubbed ‘The Mighty Handful’ (not entirely usefully) by the critic Vladimir Stasov. Their common creed was a conscious musical nationalism.

The Performance: The programme is book-ended by the two most famous works of ‘The Five’: Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Balakirev’s oriental fantasy Islamey. Pictures is given a fine, muscular performance without being outstanding; Islamey boasts transparently clear textures at the expense of spine-tingling bravura. Cui, the deserved nonentity of ‘The ‘Five’, is represented by his dreary Nocturne from Quatre Morceaux, Rimsky-Korsakov by three short, derivative pieces (though the Scherzino is a delight); Borodin’s famous Scherzo for some reason is placed before the seven numbers of his Petite Suite (it was published as No.8).

The Verdict: An interesting concept to have keyboard works from each of ‘The Five’ ranged alongside one another on the same disc, but the musical interest is uneven – and Fisher’s recorded piano tone is not always the most attractive.

Want More? Freddy Kempf offers compelling readings of Pictures and Islamey (on BIS, BIS-SACD-1580) with Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit as a third masterpiece.

Discover Music

Beethoven String Quartet manuscript Classical Music News

From the most expensive manuscripts to the greatest artist interviews, find out the latest music news first here.

What's on from 6am-8pm

From More Music Breakfast at 6am through to Classic FM Drive at 5pm, we play a mix of feel-good classics and upbeat favourites providing the perfect soundtrack to your day.