Thursday, October 18, 2007

CD REVIEW: New Tchaikovsky CDs, from tragic to sparkling


October 18, 2007

Mary Ellyn Hutton,
Cincinnati Post music writer

If you like Tchaikovsky - and who doesn't? - you might want to give these new recordings by the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestras a spin when they hit the stores Tuesday. Both are from Telarc.
Paavo Järvi: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Tchaikovsky, "Romeo and Juliet" Overture Fantasy. Symphony No. 6 ("Pathetique"). Telarc. A.
Here's music to move you, no matter how many times you have heard it. Sorrow is the overriding emotion in Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet" and in his valedictory, "Pathetique" symphony, but both works are beautifully, sensitively rendered by Järvi and the CSO. The pacing of the music, its peaks and valleys and the clarity and quality of Telarc's audiophile sound project deep feeling.
The tone poem "Romeo and Juliet" is based on Shakespeare's play. Järvi begins it exquisitely, more slowly and thoughtfully than most, with sudden fortes that sound like sobs. When the love theme arrives, he treats it with the utmost tenderness, as if allowing the lovers a moment of happiness before the ax falls. And fall it does, with a thud of timpani. The final sad wind chorale and love theme/elegy give way to stern staccato chords and a broad, very Russian sounding end.
Tchaikovsky never divulged the "meaning" of his "Pathetique" symphony (though it had one, he said). The title was suggested by a friend and Tchaikovsky asked that it be removed, but he died nine days after the premiere and it stuck. Tragedy clings to the work, perhaps for that reason, and it begins and ends in emotion-laden darkness.
Järvi's reading is highly dramatic. Prepare yourself (if you can) for the thunder clap fortissimo that opens the development section in the first movement. He shapes the lovely second theme touchingly, ending the movement in a huge outpouring of grief.
The middle movements bear the optimism of the work. The CSO cellos all but laugh in the famous 5/4 waltz. The blustery march/scherzo features snappy rhythms and swirling strings. However, the final Adagio, in which a theme from the waltz becomes a threnody, is wrenching in its despair.
Available in CD and SCAD formats.

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