Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 1 (Winter Daydreams); The Snow Maiden (excerpts); Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Symphony No. 1 (Winter Daydreams); The Snow Maiden (excerpts); Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture
PERFORMER: Gothenburg SO/Neeme Järvi
The Russian Christmas may be over, but the Tchaikovsky repertoire earlier featured on the cover disc of the December issue is music for all seasons, and Neeme Järvi offers more of a spring in the heel of the First Symphony than brooding Vassily Sinaisky (December’s featured conductor). Not that this is always appropriate. While Sinaisky finds powerful desolation in the finale’s lugubrious underbelly, at deliberate odds with the crown-imperial surface, Järvi moves it along and underlines its folksong source, which only makes this potentially bland movement the more puzzling. No one has made a more extraordinary case for the manic-depressive swings here than Yuri Temirkanov, a performance currently available only on a six-CD set; intriguing that he’s much the most extreme interpreter. The best of the 26-year old Tchaikovsky’s authentic inspiration is to be found in the slow movement’s long-limbed melody. Järvi’s players carry the torch effectively enough here until the horn-laden climax, which needs that extra intensity and body of tone sustained by Sinaisky’s BBC Philharmonic and Temirkanov’s RPO.As in the initial volume of BIS’s new Tchaikovsky cycle (reviewed in October), Järvi the elder statesman inclines more to level-headedness than to his former fire, but there are still many touching moments. The subtle fade at the end of the symphony’s first movement is beautifully done, and we are back on vintage Gothenburg/Järvi territory with the atmospheric hushed reprise of the Snow Maiden Melodrama – almost worth the cost of the disc for its five minutes of melancholy heaven. Romeo and Juliet starts and begins well with cowled wind chords, and the strings sigh at first sight of the love-theme most affectingly; but the drama of Montagues and Capulets, at least in the standard CD format of this hybrid disc, is too muffled for effective cut and thrust. David Nice