LABELS: BR Klassik
ALBUM TITLE: Pique Dame
WORKS: Pique Dame
PERFORMER: Misha Didyk, Tatiana Serjan, Larissa Diadkova, Alexey Shishlyaev, Alexey Markov; Choir and Childrens’ Choir of Bavarian State Opera; Bavarian State Radio Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: 900129
Mariss Jansons’s more recent CDs have been live re-recordings of his standard symphonic repertoire, so this live semi-staged performance of a toweringly great opera, by head and shoulders the best stereo version now available, is cause for celebration. The polar opposite of the fleet 1952 Bolshoi version starring the great Georgi Nelepp (available from Brilliant Classics in a very cheap 60-CD Tchaikovsky box), it wouldn’t have displaced it as the Building a Library choice I made on Radio 3 two years ago, but in terms of state-of-the-art sound, it’s peerless.
The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra is sleek, shapely and vivid throughout, but Tchaikovsky’s pioneering contribution in what JanáΩek called his ‘masterpiece of horror’ is his spooky writing for woodwind, and since this team is placed helpfully to the fore, that’s one crowning glory here. The other is the obsessed outsider hero Herman as played and sung with increasing intensity by Misha Didyk. His unfortunate victim Lisa, Tatiana Serjan, can be tremulous and even harsh in the upper register under pressure, but their final meeting has a vividness that should make your hair stand on end. Both baritones – one older and cynical, the other dapper and fierce – are superb, and if the chorus never sounds quite Russian, it’s sophisticated enough to meet all Jansons’s demands. Sadly the recording is missing a little sarabande in the Act II intermezzo, but that shouldn’t stop you hearing one of the most exciting and polished opera recordings of recent years.