Pique Dame – overture; Capriccio italian; The Snow Maiden – excerpts; Sleeping Beauty – suite; Variations on a Rococo Theme*; String Quartet No. 1 – Andante cantabile*; The Nutcracker – excerpts
*Leonard Elschenbroich (cello); Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne/Dmitrij Kitajenko
Oehms OC 1903 137:05 mins (2 discs)
The booklet says nothing about the music (only the orchestra and conductor), and the programme, taken mostly from previous releases in Oehms’ fine series of recordings with Dmitrij Kitajenko and the Gürzenich Orchestra, tends towards excerpts rather than complete works. Yet there is no doubting the general excellence of these studio accounts recorded 2009-15.
Most of the second disc offers a generous selection from Kitajenko’s complete 2015 recording of Tchaikovsky’s third ballet spectacular, The Nutcracker. Compared to my go-to account from the LSO and Antal Dorati (Mercury), Kitajenko tends towards moderate speeds and is less overtly choreographic in his musical detailing. Yet his heart-warmingly affectionate approach uncovers enchanting details that more fleet-footed accounts tend to skate over.
It is coupled here with a noble and refined performance of the cello version of the Adagio cantabile from Leonard Elschenbroich, who on the first disc plays the Rococo Variations (in the Fitzenhagen edition) with momentum and lithe, lustrous tone. The remainder of the set consists of excerpts from The Sleeping Beauty (opulent and affectionately shaped in the manner of André Previn) and The Snow Maiden, alongside the Capriccio italien, which tends towards a distinctly Russian lustre and sense of spectacle, rather than Mediterranean, sunlit playfulness. Introducing proceedings is the broodingly atmospheric Queen of Spadesoverture, refreshingly free of emotional hysteria and, like everything in this recital, moderately paced and fine-judged, matched by resplendent playing and recording.