ALBUM TITLE: Tchaikovsky: Overtures and Fantasias.
WORKS: Francesca da Rimini; Romeo & Juliet; Eugene Onegin – Waltz & Polonaise; 1812 Overture (arr. Buketoff)
PERFORMER: Orchestra e Coro Dell’Accademia Di Santa Cecilia/Antonio Pappano
CATALOGUE NO: 370 0652
Following in the footsteps of eminent Tchaikovskyans Abbado and Muti, Pappano brings well-judged doses of Italianate song to the ill-fated lovers of Verona and Rimini. Francesca’s hell burns with groaning cellos and lamenting woodwind; the clarinet solo that creeps out of the flames is voiced with withdrawn soulfulness, and Pappano draws shapely lines from the Santa Cecilia strings in the love-duet that develops. They’re equally persuasive in the hushed reverence with which Romeo and Juliet’s great theme begins, though the fight music takes time to kindle: Pappano makes it more explosive on each of its two reappearances, and marks the tragedy with an unusually spacious, gleaming coda. There’s more bel canto than usual in 1812, as Pappano makes use of the choral parts added in the mid-1960s (and therefore not ‘original’, despite EMI’s claim) by Igor Buketoff. Pappano gives the crucial lyric relief, derived from a duet in Tchaikovsky’s first opera, more space than usual; and the folk-song ‘At the gate’ which follows is given to the ladies of the Santa Cecilia chorus – a surprise reappearance after the full choir’s authentic-sounding embrace of Russian orthodoxy at the start of the overture; to cap it all, a third anthem, ‘God save the Tsar’, also belongs to voices among the discreet booms of cannons and the pealing of bells. The Onegin Waltz, initiated with great panache, boasts partygoers and soloists Captain Petrovich, Onegin and Lensky. Along with a dashing Polonaise, it fills the generous measure in the kind of Tchaikovsky spectacular one might have thought was a thing of the past. The sound could do with more air around the closely-recorded strings, but overall the balances are admirable. Indeed, if this programme appeals, you’re in masterly hands. David Nice
Reviewed February 2007