Tchaikovsky: Hamlet; The Tempest; Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Hamlet; The Tempest; Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture
PERFORMER: Bamberg SO/José Serebrier
Tchaikovsky never stage-managed the art of the Shakespearian fantasy-overture more successfully than in Romeo and Juliet, and even that took some revision before achieving its masterly proportions between cowled solemnity, tragic love and vigorous brawling. For Hamlet and The Tempest, he skewed the drama to suit the recipe – the brave new world of Ferdinand and Miranda, for instance, hardly deserves such extended lyric pathos – though there are inspired ideas in both, just as there are great scenes in Tchaikovsky’s more formulaic, lesser-known operas. Serebrier presents the results in reverse order of composition.


Hamlet’s selective scoring sounds well, especially in the Odette-like wind ensemble of isolated Ophelia, but the heavens never fall at this stolid hero’s railing as Tchaikovsky’s extreme dynamics suggest they should; clarity and definition come first. Serebrier limns the bewitching realisation of Prospero’s sweet-sounding island less atmospherically than Neeme Järvi (Chandos), though his Bamberg brass raises spirits with the magician’s incisive incantations. There’s one touch of Serebrian idiosyncracy in a heavy-hearted Romeo and Juliet: why are the caressing violins which follow the first statement of the love theme separated into phrases of two rather than four notes? Otherwise, the result is neither as controversial nor as interesting as the Fourth Symphony which launched this series, though sound and balance are equally impressive. David Nice