Tchaikovsky: Three Romances; Theme and Variations in A minor; Potpourri on Themes from the Opera ‘The Voyevoda’

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Discover
WORKS: Three Romances; Theme and Variations in A minor; Potpourri on Themes from the Opera ‘The Voyevoda’
PERFORMER: Dana Protopopescu (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DICD 920521
This is the first in a multi-disc survey of Tchaikovsky’s piano music, a project already undertaken by the quirkily compelling Victoria Postnikova on Erato. Protopopescu’s first volume features some of the opus-less works dotted throughout Tchaikovsky’s creative life. To begin with the composer’s transcriptions of three rather well-known songs was probably a mistake: singing line is not Protopopescu’s greatest strength, though she does surprise us later with striking vocalisation in the ‘Aveu passioné’, reworked from a love scene in Tchaikovsky’s first opera, The Voyevoda. Other melodies from the opera – including one which found a second home in Swan Lake – form the centrepiece in the rough and ready Potpourri. Protopopescu is a little insensitive here with the lovely women’s folksong, then soars surprisingly in the first Adagio (none of the individual Voyevoda numbers are mentioned in some very silly booklet notes).

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Other expressive pleasures are fitful both in the music and the performance. The pianist can do little with a very dull theme and fleetingly interesting variations, an apprentice work, though the note of Tchaikovskian intimacy does resurface in a handful of later pieces including an A flat Impromptu with a winsome left-hand melody and an anguished middle section. In moments such as this, Protopopescu’s brittle surface dissolves to reveal surprising sensitivities. David Nice