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

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COMPOSERS: Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Supraphon
WORKS: Symphony No. 1 (Winter Daydreams); Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture
PERFORMER: Prague SO/Gaetano Delogu
CATALOGUE NO: SU 3256-2
Tchaikovsky himself added fuel to the view that he was not a natural symphonist. In Russia, where the ideal of the symphonic poem held sway, the abstract symphony was a distinctly foreign affair. And yet, time and time again in this First Symphony there is a strong sense of developmental impetus (on occasion in the first movement anticipating Shostakovich) and a sure grasp of breadth of design. Romeo and Juliet, where a pre-existing drama supplies a superstructure for some of Tchaikovsky’s most evocative music, will always be more popular, but in the right hands, his Winter Daydreams are much more than insubstantial fantasies.

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Delogu is an eloquent advocate for the First Symphony. The opening movement is passionate and cogently argued, and the Prague Symphony Orchestra plays with commitment if not the last ounce of virtuosity. Sadly an outburst of audience coughing detracts from the start of the finale, but the remaining movements maintain a high level of involvement. Romeo and Juliet is less satisfying; despite a fine control in the faster passages, the love music is surprisingly prosaic. Jan Smaczny