Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings; Souvenir de Florence; Andante cantabile for cello & strings; Largo & Allegro for flute & strings

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Arts
WORKS: Serenade for Strings; Souvenir de Florence; Andante cantabile for cello & strings; Largo & Allegro for flute & strings
PERFORMER: Roberto Fabbriciani (flute), Wen-Sinn Yang (cello); Bavarian Radio CO
CATALOGUE NO: 47633-2
Reduced forces (17 players are used here) often cast novel perspectives on Tchaikovsky’s string serenade, and this eventful account brings an uncommonly high level of interpretative sophistication and spontaneity. The conductorless Bavarian Radio ensemble treats the work as pure chamber music. The benefits are considerable: exquisite dynamic gradations in the first-subject group of the opening movement’s Allegro; sunny, seamless dialogues in the waltz and a breathtaking transition from the hushed, vibratoless preface into the Russian theme of the finale. And the performance is satisfyingly sealed in the triumphant reappearance of the work’s opening statement, and the final exuberant coda.

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There follows a thrillingly volatile, sometimes frenetic reading of the Souvenir de Florence. Tchaikovsky’s string orchestra transcription imposes searching technical demands which are more easily overcome in the original string sextet version, but if you relish larger forces, this newcomer rates highly. Philippe Entremont’s budget Naxos accounts of the Souvenir and Serenade with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra are also impressive, but more mannered and noticeably less vital in pulse and attack. Jean-Jacques Kantorow’s fiery and exciting Auvergne Orchestra pairing benefits from Denon’s superior engineering, but the best big-band version of the Serenade is Karajan’s, coupled with Dvorák’s String Serenade.

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Lastly, the cello arrangement of the famous Andante cantabile (from Tchaikovsky’s First Quartet) is affectingly played by Wen-Sinn Yang, though the work fraudulently proclaimed on both booklet cover and jewel-case spine as Tchaikovsky’s ‘Flute Concerto’ is no more than a four-minute student fragment. It’s easily forgotten, and serves no useful purpose here. Michael Jameson