LABELS: CSO Resound
WORKS: Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture; Serenade for Strings; Francesca da Rimini, Symphonic Fantasy; Ewald: Brass Quintets Nos 1 & 3
PERFORMER: Philadelphia Orchestra/ Christoph Eschenbach
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 1150-2D
Never heard of Victor Ewald? Don’t worry; neither had I. Nor, it seems, had Russophiles writing around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries when Ewald balanced his talents as civil engineering professor, cellist in the Beliaeff Quartet and composer.
Brass players may be grateful for the two quintets here, which are an easy-going delight, bound to encourage spot-the-influence games. No. 1 in B flat minor of circa 1890 starts with Russian folksong treatment, goes on to sound like early Strauss and turns Borodinesque in a 5/4 scherzo (another one to challenge those who say Tchaikovsky got there first in the Pathétique). No. 3 in D flat follows the ruling Russian symphonist in 1912, Glazunov, and boasts an exuberant finale. Trumpeter David Bilger sings gloriously in the First Quintet’s slow movement.
The brass divertimentos provide light relief after the most serious-minded Francesca I’ve ever heard, spaciously avoiding whirlwind overkill and dynamically alert in a studied but affecting remembrance of happier times. On the first disc, Tchaikovsky’s String Serenade, following Romeo and Juliet, plays a similar role to the quintets.
Christoph Eschenbach’s approach to the Serenade is big and sumptuous with symphonic strings, rather than light and fleet with a small ensemble. The breadth of his Romeo doesn’t always work as well as his Francesca, but he does hit the heights of the love theme with aristocratic aplomb and he always reminds you what a fabulously organised symphonic movement this is. David Nice