Tchaikovsky: The Seasons; Dumka, Op. 59

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: The Seasons; Dumka, Op. 59
PERFORMER: Xiang-Dong Kong (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 62520 2 DDD
Despite the popularity of his piano concertos, Tchaikovsky wrote relatively little for solo piano, and much of what he did write is limited in scope – he seems to have needed an orchestra to sustain his pianistic imagination. The Seasons was written to order for a St Petersburg magazine. The 12 pieces, designed for domestic performance, each describe a month, taking their cue from an attached poetic epigraph, invoking a picturesque Russian countryside – Tchaikovsky offhandedly, but appetisingly, described them as ‘musical blini’.

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The blurb writers for each of these two discs rather struggle to justify the releases, but both accounts have charm. Kong is more determined to squeeze the drama from the music, playing up the contrasts in the ABA forms and using a good deal of rubato: he is most at home in the lyrical sections. Edlina is perhaps more sympathetic to the domesticity of the pieces and plays without fuss. Choice between the two rather depends on the fillers: Kong chooses more Tchaikovsky, including the lyrically rapt Méditation and the Slavonic Dumka, while Edlina opts for Borodin’s Petite Suite, which contains the compelling ‘In the Monastery’, a piece that seems, harmonically, to hover between Liszt and Debussy. William Humphreys-Jones