Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings; Nocturne; Mozartiana; Legend ‘Christ in His Garden’

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: BBC Legends
WORKS: Serenade for Strings; Nocturne; Mozartiana; Legend ‘Christ in His Garden’
PERFORMER: Mstislav Rostropovich (cello), Peter Pears (tenor); ECO/Benjamin Britten
CATALOGUE NO: BBCB 8002-2 ADD
The conjunction of Britten and Tchaikovsky might at first seem a strange one, but the composer of Les illuminations must have admired the lucidity, economy of means and sheer expertise that inform every bar of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. There’s no short-changing of Tchaikovsky’s expressivity in Britten’s 1968 performance from Snape Maltings, and a light touch when required, though corners could occasionally be more neatly turned and not all problems of balance have been solved. Its live origins only rarely obtrude in the shape of minor extraneous noise.

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Tchaikovsky’s Mozartiana suite, produced during idle moments in the summer of 1887, takes three Mozart piano pieces and the well-known ‘Ave, verum corpus’ (the latter via a Liszt piano transcription) and serves them up for medium-sized orchestra. It seems a pointless exercise to me, and this occasionally untidy account doesn’t persuade me otherwise.

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The gems of the disc are Tchaikovsky’s own arrangement for cello and orchestra of an early piano nocturne, superbly played by Rostropovich, and his orchestral version of the children’s song ‘Christ in His Garden’, which Peter Pears articulates in well-groomed English. George Hall