Tchaikovsky Overtures and Fantasias

Not another Tchaikovsky collection? Well, yes, and it's among the finest

Author: 
Edward Greenfield
Tchaikovsky Overtures and FantasiasTchaikovsky Overtures and Fantasias

TCHAIKOVSKY Overtures and Fantasias – Pappano

  • Francesca da Rimini
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Eugene Onegin, Waltz
  • Eugene Onegin, Polonaise
  • 1812

With chorus added in the 1812 as well as the Waltz from Eugene Onegin, this is an exceptional Tchaikovsky collection, a fine start for Antonio Pappano’s recordings with his “other” orchestra. What is very striking is how refreshing the 1812 is when played with such incisiveness and care for detail, with textures clearly defined. It starts with the chorus singing the opening hymn, expanding thrillingly from an extreme pianissimo to a full-throated fortissimo.

A women’s chorus then comes in very effectively, twice over, for one of the folk-themes, and at the end the full chorus sings the Tsar’s Hymn amid the usual percussion and bells, though Pappano avoids extraneous effects, leaving everything in the hands of the orchestral instruments. It is equally refreshing to have the Waltz from Eugene Onegin in the full vocal version from the opera, again wonderfully pointed, as is the Polonaise which follows.

What comes out in all the items is the way that Pappano, in his control of flexible rubato, is just as persuasive here as he is in Puccini, demonstrating what links there are between these two supreme melodists. So he builds the big melodies into richly emotional climaxes without any hint of vulgarity, strikingly so in both Francesca da Rimini and Romeo and Juliet. Pappano is impressive in bringing out the fantasy element in Francesca, and in Romeo the high dynamic contrasts add to the impact of the performance. There have been many Tchaikovsky collections like this, but with well balanced sound, outstandingly rich and ripe in the brass section, this is among the finest.

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