Swan Lake – Excerpts
Philharmonia Orchestra/Santtu-Matias Rouvali
Signum Classics SIGCD648 43:04 mins
Santtu-Matias Rouvali takes over as principal conductor of the Philharmonia in 2021, and this work by Tchaikovsky is his first recording with them. Others might have chosen more impressive repertoire for their debut, and maybe things were in the pipeline that had to be shelved during the pandemic, but this shows his command of the orchestra and sense of idiom. What isn’t explicitly mentioned in the booklet is that this is a live recording, which accounts both for its sense of spontaneity, as well as a few rough edges in ensemble. But the textures are clearly painted, the sound is bright and detailed and the selection of numbers well chosen.
In the opening Waltz, Rouvali encourages the strings to a nice line in portamento, and the brass to a Russian feel for vibrato: in fact, all the solo playing is burnished and involved, especially in the dances in Act II, where the violin and cornet employ some characterful, natural rubato. There’s swagger in the Dance of the Goblets, humour in the Dance of the Cygnets, and the ‘big tune’ has a majestic sweep, both in the scene at the end of Act I and the finale of Act IV.