WORKS: Romeo and Juliet Suite No. 1; Romeo and Juliet Suite No. 2; Romeo and Juliet Suite No. 3 (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/ Myung-Whun Chung
CATALOGUE NO: 439 870-2 DDD
Chung offers the first two orchestral suites (1936), closing with ‘Juliet’s Death’ from the third (1946). Tjeknavorian offers all three in sequence – 20 movements in total, adding up to nearly 15 minutes of extra music. Chung’s approach balances the balletically evocative with the symphonically abstract. Cumulatively, his is an enormously impressive performance. He knows just how to coax a melody to sing, how to let the span of music breathe. Less tensioned, less in love with beauty, Tjeknavorian is more matter-of-fact. Wanting in drama and poetry, his penchant for occasionally excessive speed or short-winded phrasing trivialises, even vulgarises, Prokofiev’s ideas. His orchestra isn’t in the class of the Dutch. And his acoustically unexciting, closely engineered sound cannot begin to compare with the space, resonance or physical gravity of the DG.
Mark Ermler’s new complete version of the ballet score has all the distinguishing features of his ROH Tchaikovsky cycle. Here is playing of natural fluency and eloquent theatricality, musically felt and expressively sensitive despite tempi in the famous set pieces often being faster than either Tjeknavorian or Chung. Maybe the 15 hammer-blows of ‘Tybalt’s Death’ lack the sheer physical terror of Chung’s characterisation – much else doesn’t, however. Ates Orga