Stravinsky; Tchaikovsky

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Stravinsky; Tchaikovsky
LABELS: PentaTone
ALBUM TITLE: Stravinsky; Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Divertimento
PERFORMER: Russian National O/Vladimir Jurowski
Live-wire Vladimir Jurowski has already made an impact with thought-provoking concert programmes, and this is a delightful pairing of not-quite-mainstream repertoire. The opportunity to play with sonorities and unusual groups of instruments which motivates Tchaikovsky’s four orchestral suites also gave a cue to Stravinsky’s ballet scores from Petrushka onward. Here, the suite from The Fairy’s Kiss is an unashamed homage to the master with its piquant arrangements of lesser-known piano pieces and songs. (‘I’ve always said that Tchaikovsky was a good composer’, remarked Prokofiev wryly on examining Stravinsky’s score.)


Jurowski has worked with more sympathetic animators of Tchaikovskyan melody than the slightly dry band of the Russian National Orchestra, but he keeps the bittersweet atmosphere of the Third Suite nicely in focus, and even suggests a certain anguish in adrenalin-fuelled climaxes (Tchaikovsky was discovering a new, unattainable love in nephew Bob Davidov at the time of composition, so it may not be fanciful to suggest an element of autobiography). The celebrated variations of the finale are nicely pointed, until the final Polonaise, which lacks the kind of air around it you find in Dorati’s pioneering recording (Philips). The coda has a few creative eccentricities on Jurowski’s part, too.


In the Divertimento, he hones Stravinsky’s selective orchestration to bring out what’s new in the music – a viable alternative to the more personable Romanticism of Neeme Järvi in the full score. Pentatone’s natural acoustic engineering brings a naturalness and a much-needed bloom to the Russian National Orchestra’s hard edges. David Nice