WORKS: Concert Suite for Violin and Orchestra; Entr’acte (The Temple of Apollo at Delphi); Oresteia Overture
PERFORMER: Pekka Kuusisto (violin); Helsinki PO/Vladimir Ashkenazy
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 959-2
When Tchaikovsky turned from the form of the symphony to the orchestral suite, it was for the freedom of form offered by a looser genre – a chance to play with different sonorities across a range of movements with no obvious correspondences. His one-time pupil Taneyev did the same in 1908, and with a difference – in this case solving the concerto problem by having the violin soloist as the connecting link between five very different genre pieces. The Concert Suite is an interesting hybrid rather than a work of scintillating originality; lacking his master’s distinctive voice and personal use of orchestral colour, Taneyev often labours a point. Violinist Pekka Kuusisto is an intelligent quick-change artist, moving from Bachian master of ceremonies to elegant gavottist and mysterious storyteller with apparent ease. He and Ashkenazy do what they can with the forced gaiety of the final tarantella, but it remains no more than a contrived crowd-pleaser.
In Taneyev’s fustian music for the Oresteia, Russian figures of fate give way to Lohengrin-like seraphics as Apollo turns furies to ‘kindly ones’. It might work with an orchestra of more lustrous vocalising abilities than the Helsinki Philharmonic, but here it sounds simply overblown and poorly balanced. Few, I suspect, will want to savour the complete opera on this evidence. David Nice