Gautier Capuçon plays Tchaikovsky & Prokofiev

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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev,Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Prokofiev: Symphony-Concerto; Tchaikovsky: Rococo Variations
PERFORMER: Gautier Capuçon (cello); Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra/Valery Gergiev
CATALOGUE NO: 694 4860

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This is an intelligent pairing: Tchaikovsky as the first Russian neo-classicist, Prokofiev looking back in the early 1950s on a tradition that includes the 19th-century composer’s Francesca da Rimini. Gautier Capuçon and Valery Gergiev take both works very darkly and seriously.

That only really works for the Rococo Variations in its minor-key variation, and it doesn’t do Tchaikovsky’s lightness of touch much good; after all, you wouldn’t behave like this with Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony or Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, so why the long face with their illustrious trailblazer?

Surely it’s high time, too, to return once and for all to Tchaikovsky’s first thoughts, as delivered in sprightly fashion by Steven Isserlis and Eliot Gardiner on Virgin, rather than the usual re-ordered version presented here.

This furrowed-browed approach makes their Symphony-Concerto – note the correct title, please, Virgin – unlike any other. No one manages the first movement’s withdrawal into dreams more magically than Gergiev with hushed Mariinsky strings, and Capuçon quickly follows pensive suit.

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However, Capuçon’s playing doesn’t quite match the bravura of dedicatee Rostropovich and both Rostropovich in any of his versions and his protégée Han Na Changdare, and achieve, more in the sheerly extrovert passages. David Nice