Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4; Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Symphony No. 4; Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture
PERFORMER: Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer
Energy and nuance are well balanced in the first movement of Iván Fischer’s Tchaikovsky Fourth. The slight breathing space he allows the fate-fanfares at the start lends them extra majestic terror, and the second of Tchaikovsky’s valses tristes is ideally shadowy between keenly articulated bouts of anguish and euphoria. A little too much of the excitable Fischer spirit is in evidence as he hurtles towards the central climax, but the high point puts us back on spacious course. It’s in the much shorter movements that idiosyncracies begin to obstruct the overall line. Orchestral weight and presence are a problem, too, partly due to the over-resonant acoustics of Budapest’s Italian Institute: you really miss a Russian string sound at key points in the canzona as well as the accumulating tension Tchaikovsky brings to bear on the ‘birch-tree’ folksong of the finale, keenly though Fischer inflects it, and the fantasy-scherzo stays rather dim even when woodwind and brass join the party. Mravinsky, the ideal, brings similar imagination to bear on every line, but within a Classical framework that underlines a greater continuity in Tchaikovsky’s symphonic argument. There are further oddities in the detached woodwind chords at the start of Romeo and Juliet, though the fight sequences certainly have much more energy than Järvi’s (see above) and I like the veil Fischer draws over the tragic apotheosis. David Nice