DVOŘÁK; TCHAIKOVSKY Serenades for Strings (Piovano)
It’s difficult to imagine an album coupling these two works not being an enjoyable listen. And so it proves with this release from the strings of Antonio Pappano’s Rome band. Luigi Piovano, who conducts, is principal cellist of the orchestra (although the only biography in Arcana’s booklet is for the artist Mario Giacomelli, whose pictures are dotted throughout) and, with generous if somewhat top-heavy forces at his disposal (126.96.36.199.2), he directs big-boned, full-bodied accounts of both works – symphonic in scale and sonority.
It’s an approach that seems to fit the Tchaikovsky work best, with that memorable opening statement given real stature. There’s a sturdiness to the first movement’s Allegro moderato, plenty of lilt in the famous waltz and a touching, heartfelt account of the Élégie. And Piovano’s massed forces negotiate their way around the finale pretty nimbly, too. But the sound itself can feel a little glassy and slippery, and it’s not all quite as tight as it could be. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare the performance with that of the smaller Russian Virtuosi of Europe, but there you can hear the advantages of more lightness, detail and precision.
There’s a lot to like in Piovano’s performance of the Dvořák, too, including a lovely account of the Larghetto and plenty of nice interpretative touches. But the sound again occasionally feels a little too congested, the playing not ideally clean. I miss the air and affection that makes Jakub Hrůša’s lovingly turned account with the Prague Philharmonia, for example, such a delight. Nevertheless, the vigour and commitment of Piovano and his players are never in doubt on this enjoyable release.