Tchaikovsky - Symphony no.1, The Tempest
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Label: Harmonia Mundi
Cat No: HMC902220
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 4th November 2016
ArtistsOrchestra of St Luke’s
Harmonia Mundi are proud to release OSL's debut album for the label featuring two of Tchaikovsky’s earliest notable works, both of which are dramatic and vibrant: Symphony no.1 (‘Winter Dreams’) and The Tempest, a sprawling and turbulent seascape.
1Symphony No. 1 In G Minor, Op. 13 'Winter Daydreams': I. Dreams Of A Winter Journey. Allegro Tranquillo
2Symphony No. 1 In G Minor, Op. 13 'Winter Daydreams': II. Land Of Desolation, Land, Of Mists. Adagio Cantabile Ma Non Tanto
3Symphony No. 1 In G Minor, Op. 13 'Winter Daydreams': III. Scherzo. Allegro Scherzando Giocoso
4Symphony No. 1 In G Minor, Op. 13 'Winter Daydreams': IV. Finale. Andante Lugubre, Allegro Moderato, Allegro Maestoso, Allegro Vivo
5The Tempest In F Minor, Symphonic Fantasia After William Shakespeare, Op. 18
First up is Tchaikovsky’s First Symphony: dating from 1866, soon after his graduation from the St Petersburg Conservatoire, this piece cost the composer (according to his brother) more in hard work than any of his mature works. But although the familiar struggles with form are already evident, there is no doubting the melodic facility and ability to conjure up effective atmosphere even at this early stage. The first two movements in particular evoke the ‘Winter Daydreams’ of the subtitle, the first movement (with its infectiously babbling woodwind) representing ‘Dreams of a Winter Journey’, the cantabile slow movement a proto-Sibelian ‘Land of Desolation, Land of Mists’. The OSL musicians invest this movement with real soul, full of lyricism and feeling, but never tipping over into vulgarity. The delicately dance-like third movement, with its memorable central waltz, has gracefulness in abundance, ever light-footed, while in the finale, with its Russian folk song, one seldom notices the jaggedness of the formal edges, so committed is the playing. Heras-Casado allows the music to unfold naturally, never pushing too hard, and the result is a most unassumingly charming performance.
The coupling is the only slightly later symphonic fantasia on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Its evocative seascape, memorable side-by-side depiction of Ariel and Caliban, and thrilling storm, are all so vivid in this performance that you’d hardly guess the composer was more or less writing to order according to a detailed programme imposed on him by the musicologist and critic Vladimir Stasov. In this performance, Heras-Casado imbues the music of the lovers Miranda and Ferdinand with exquisite tenderness, helped by playing of enormous lyricism from the OSL’s strings. The woodwind are as characterful as they are throughout the preceding symphony, while the brass and percussion, given their head in the storm episode, make a thunderous impact.
With winter now almost upon us in the northern hemisphere, what better time to explore these less familiar pieces? Full of feeling, extremely persuasive, and treated to a recording of sumptuous depth and clarity of focus, these performances are sure to delight Tchaikovsky lovers old and new, whether as a treat for yourself or as a seasonal gift. More from this team, and soon, please!
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