Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame / Ozawa, Freni, Hvorostovsky, Roudenko, Boston Symphony Orchestra
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Tanglewood Festival Chorus
Number of Discs:
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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Libretto not included.
"A convinced and convincing Tchaikovsky advocate, Ozawa reveals every facet of the manysided score in his penetrating, urgent yet never exaggerated interpretation, which derives from successful live performances. The surges of romantic yearning that course through the piece, the undercurrent of unease signalling Hermann's gradual loss of reason, the brooding pathos of the Countess's bedroom scene, the amazing originality of the barracks hallucination, the hectic, neurotic events of the finale are all projected with unfailing imagination, seconded by the superb playing of the Boston Symphony who might have spent a lifetime playing the piece. Particularly rewarding is the range of dynamics and the
subtlety of nuance they bring to the music, evident throughout. If you want a small example of what I mean listen to the accompaniment to Hermann's Act 1 musings (first CD, track 19, 1 '00"ff). To complete one's pleasure the orchestra are recorded in a full spectrum of sound without the overblown feeling that some companies favour.
Atlantov has long been one of the most telling interpreters of the taxing role of Hermann, able to convey the man's fevered pulse as he hovers excitedly between love and greed. That conflict of feeling expressed in his first aria and his projection throughout of Hermann's changing emotions is wholly admirable, not least in the tortured recollection of the Countess's funeral, where his fiery enunciation is frightening in effect. Atlantov has the vocal wherewithal to stand the strain of the role, even if the voice is now marginally less pleasing and secure than when I heard him in Munich six or seven years ago, and he occasionally erupts into a lacrymose outburst. Ochman, whom I greatly praised when the Sony set appeared, brings a subtler shade of meaning to the role and thus conveys more of the inner conflict in the anti-hero's soul, but he wants Atlantov's grand scale of singing. The only performance to rival Atlantov's in power is that of Nelepp in the old Melodiya/Melik-Peshaev set
Freni crowns a long and successful career on disc with this involving, fully imagined account of Lisa's part. All Lisa's strange and compelling fascination with Hermann is revealed at once in her Act 1 aria. She unerringly depicts the way Lisa gradually comes under his thrall until she capitulates with her cry of "Net! Zhivi!" ("No! Live!") at the end of the act. Her doubts about her infatuation makes the lovers' apparent moment of happiness (third CD, start of track 6) all the more poignant, especially when both principals sing it with such refined, subdued tone. When Lisa becomes more and more desperate as Hermann becomes fixated with the cards, Freni's intense and tense singing fulfils practically all the demands made upon her. Her tone, no longer as fresh and beautiful as of old, isn't as resplendent as Evstatieva's (Sony), but as compensation there's a new depth of interpretative power and what to a foreign ear sounds like idiomatic Russian. By contrast Maureen Forrester's excellent enunciation as the old Countess only serves to expose her sometimes odd vowels. She is right inside the role and happily doesn't overdo the melodramatics, except when she indulges in cackles just before her precipitate demise.
Leiferkus is rightly considered the reigning Tomsky of the day and, as at Glyndebourne, delivers the story of the three cards with biting immediacy and compact tone. Hvorostovsky sings Yeletsky's aria with a welcome combination of firm line and restrained but palpable emotion, although there are moments when the lovely voice sounds pushed under pressure."
-- A.B., Gramophone [11/1992]
Reviewing original release
Works on This Recording
Queen of Spades, Op. 68 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Dennis Petersen (Tenor),
Mirella Freni (Soprano),
Vladimir Atlantov (Tenor),
Dmitri Hvorostovsky (Baritone),
Maureen Forrester (Alto),
Sergei Leiferkus (Baritone),
Katherine Ciesinski (Mezzo Soprano),
Dominique Labelle (Soprano),
Jorge Chaminé (Baritone),
Janice Taylor (Mezzo Soprano),
Ernesto Gavazzi (Tenor),
Julian Rodescu (Bass),
Richard Clement (Tenor),
Tanya Roudenko (Voice)
Boston Symphony Orchestra,
Tanglewood Festival Chorus,
Written: 1890; Russia
Length: 156 Minutes 0 Secs.
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Excellent Recording September 23, 2013
By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews
"A superb cast, brilliant playing by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, wonderful choral work by the Tanglewood Festival horus, and Seiji Ozawa's masterly direction all combine to bring Tchaikovsly's opera to life in vivid, luxurious RCA sound. One might initially assume that an all-Russian cast would be necessary to make this opera work, but that is definitely not the case here. Russians do indeed take the major male roles, and the work of Vladimir Atlantov, Sergei Leiferkus, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky is nothing short of spectacular. In the leading female role of Lisa is the great Italian soprano Mirella Freni, and she receives superb support from Canadian contralto Maureen Forrester and others. Although the plot has plenty of tragic twists and turns, the overall atmosphere of this opera is upbeat, dynamic, and attractive. In my opinion, two basic factors are at work here. First, unlike many other Russian operas, Pique Dame does not feature bass voices in the leading male roles (Atlantov is a tenor; Leiferkus and Hvorostovsky are baritones). The effect of this emphasis on higher male registers is quite apparent in the broader dynamic range and greater opportunity for emotional expressiveness. Secondly, Tchaikovsky's orchestration for Pique Dame lends a mellifluous vitality to the libretto, and the BSO takes full advantage in a performance that could easily be described as transcendent. Although Pique Dame may be a relatively unknown opera to the majority of American music lovers, this very fine digital recording from the early 1990's screams out for a wider exposure, so do give this one a listen. I don't think you will be disappointed. Recommended."
Great performance of Tchaikovsky's "other" opera June 5, 2013
By John Tiedeman (BATON ROUGE, LA) See All My Reviews
"Hvorostovsky, Ozawa, and a price very low for a 3-CD set made this irresistible. Freni and the rest of the cast are great. This is not an opera with which I was very familiar, but Onegin is a favorite of mine and I have already fallen in love with one of the arias inn Pikova Dama. Tchaikovsky was at his best when writing about love; perhaps it was a yearning for more than the little he got in his life."