Tchaikovsky: Suite No. 3, Op. 55; Festival Coronation March

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Suite No. 3, Op. 55; Festival Coronation March
PERFORMER: USSR Ministry of Culture SO/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
CATALOGUE NO: 2292-45970-2 DDD
A new recording of Tchaikovsky’s most famous orchestral suite, made in the opulent acoustic of the Moscow Conservatoire’s Grande Salle, is a resonant herald to the composer’s centenary year. This is unmistakable Rozhdestvensky. Free-wheeling, deeply-breathed phrasing propels the Elegie, and makes all the more arresting the sudden grasp of a new paragraph where fresh definition is needed. With his Russian orchestra, he builds a big-boned bass line, covered by a dark-hued flute. This, tracks the bright violin contour or dances over the basso profundo of the lower strings. One can almost see the little nudge, the sly wink with which Rozhdestvensky’s baton, ever economic in its movement, gives its cue to the flute in the Valse melancolique or to the dusting of percussion in the Scherzo. The Theme which precedes the Variations announces itself with a quiet dignity. Here, reticence can border momentarily on complacency: it takes the blustery second and sixth variations, and Alexander Schanine’s robust violin solos in the tenth, to put the orchestra on its mettle. That, though, is where it stays for the Festival Coronation March. Tchaikovsky took time off from his opera Mazeppa to write this piece of pomp and circumstance for the coronation of Tsar Alexander III, and this post-revolutionary band does it proud. Hilary Finch