LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Symphony No. 2 in C minor; Romeo and Juliet Overture; 1812 Overture
PERFORMER: St Louis SO/Leonard Slatkin
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68045 2 DDD
If anyone is really drawn to this disc by the handsomely-torsoed Romeo on the cover, then he (if I guess the gay-male marketing target right) will be disappointed by the lack of ‘sexy’ music in evidence. Tchaikovsky may well have composed his best-known love theme with an unrequited student infatuation in mind; but the Second Symphony is the least erotically charged of the six, and all the 1812 Overture offers in that line is a warm duet-melody from an unsuccessful early opera drafted in for lyrical contrast.
Once past the daft graphics, there is much to take seriously. The Little Russian has a special charm thanks to Slatkin’s supple phrase-making and gentle observation of piquant detail, though its early nationalist kick – enthusiastically welcomed, when it first appeared, by Rimsky-Korsakov and the others in the Balakirev circle – is slightly blunted by the soft-grained St Louis strings and the reticent, bass-conscious recording.
I like the conductor’s liberty-taking accelerando in the finale’s coda; further largesses enliven an otherwise disciplined 1812 Overture, with special effects perfectly timed and placed; and a beautifully shaded Romeo and Juliet is mildly re-touched on Tchaikovskian lines. So, if the combination appeals, forget your embarrassment and enjoy. David Nice