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Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake

State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia ‘Evgeny Svetlanov’/Vladimir Jurowski (Pentatone)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Tchaikovsky Swan Lake
State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia ‘Evgeny Svetlanov’/Vladimir Jurowski
Pentatone PTC 5186 640 (hybrid CD/SACD)   79:52 mins

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It wasn’t until the 1970s (on disc, at least) that there was a resurgence of interest in the original version of Swan Lake, as opposed to the hugely popular yet utterly inauthentic 1895 edition prepared two years after Tchaikovsky’s death by Riccardo Drigo. André Previn’s opulent LSO account (EMI/Warner, 1976) has won admirers, but it was Richard Bonynge and the National Philharmonic (Decca, 1975) who came closest to capturing the intensity of a live performance, as well as finding a convincing interpretative path between the music’s choreographic spectacle and near-symphonic gravitas.

Like Bonynge, Vladimir Jurowski includes the Act III Russian Dance Tchaikovsky wrote for Pelagia Karpakova, and in addition the wonderful Pas de deux written (apparently under duress) for Anna Sobeshchanskaya. Jurowski leans more towards the concert hall than the ballet theatre, relishing the legato-cantabile of Tchaikovsky’s melodic writing, where Bonynge tends to point the rhythms and keep the music on its collective toes. Bonynge’s trumpet fanfares possess a bracing, open-air, festive quality, whereas Jurowski is more inclined to symphonic sweep rather than relishing the moment. That said, Jurowski lacks nothing in terms of passionate commitment – the impact of his recording, especially when the SACD surround-track is activated, is all-engulfing – and conjures up a compelling emotional narrative. Yet it is Bonynge who, in arguably the finest of his many ballet recordings, makes even the most resistant of armchair listeners feel drawn to get up and dance to this dazzlingly inspired masterpiece.

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Julian Haylock