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

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Symphony No. 4; Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture
PERFORMER: Colorado SO/Marin Alsop
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555714
Gone are the days when Naxos relied on Eastern European orchestras of dubious pedigree for its mainstream Russian repertoire. For its Tchaikovsky the company has now turned – and not I hope for just this once – to Colorado, where music director Marin Alsop more than justifies yet another Fourth Symphony. The full and blazing opening fanfares immediately announce a performance with the right sort of tension; with keen profiling of the lopsided valse triste that follows, Alsop keeps everyone on their toes. There are countless felicitous touches – the uniquely articulate dying chromatic falls of the woodwind in the second, ghostlier waltz-theme, the quickening of the development to stop it falling into repetitious sequences, and the one justifiable interpretative licence to give space to the final, climactic gesture of despair in the coda.

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Alsop is alive to each of the colours in the kaleidoscope following that concentrated first movement. She shows her own, tenacious mind about the defiance which surfaces in the middle of the Andantino, holds the intensity at low dynamic levels in the celebrated pizzicato of the scherzo and switches currents adeptly in the fluctuating finale. Romeo and Juliet is another slice of vivacious story-telling with keen uptake on the fight music (though the spread harp chords as the lovers’ first ecstasy subsides are a curious if highly artistic liberty). Overall, then, not a million miles away from Mravinsky at his razor-sharp best and, vividly recorded at bargain price, a useful tool for persuading sceptics that ‘classic’ Tchaikovsky still thrives. David Nice