LABELS: Naive V
ALBUM TITLE: Musorgsky , Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Musorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Ravel); Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse/Tugan Sokhiev
CATALOGUE NO: 5068
Too much, too soon was the verdict on young Tugan Sokhiev’s time at Welsh National Opera. Now, without the burden of co-ordinating between pit and stage, he properly makes his mark as principal guest conductor and musical adviser to a distinguished French orchestra. The results are impressively weighty, drawing together in mood as well as time two great Russian scores of the 1870s (the piano original of Musorgsky’s Pictures preceded Tchaikovsky’s symphony of suffering by three years). The seriousness with which Sokhiev invests Musorgsky the gallery-goer also suffuses the darker pictures, reminding us that this is a memorial tribute to an artist friend and putting the interpretation in a class of its own. Sokhiev is particularly good at drawing soulful colours from key players in the many solos master-orchestrator Ravel gives them: a wistful clarinet at the heart of ‘Tuileries’, the lumbering tuba in ‘Bydlo’, the plaintive oboe in the funeral chant of ‘Cum mortuis’. Ensembles, too, are distinctively moulded and shaped. The brass are superb in the Promenades and ‘Catacomb’ echoes of the Musorgsky, and are incisive in the fate fanfares of the Tchaikovsky, while the strings capture a very Russian ruggedness in the Symphony’s finale.
Whether or not you warm to this recording of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth will depend on whether you agree with Sokhiev’s leaning on the tragedy rather than letting it speak for itself as Mravinsky does, but there’s plenty of natural movement in the first movement’s limping waltz and magical atmosphere as the slow movement’s dreamy song sinks to rest. The sound is refreshingly natural, with warm concert-hall ambiance around brass and woodwind. David Nice