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Notes and Editorial Reviews
With three symphonies and the First Piano Concerto behind him Tchaikovsky was on the brink of the Fourth and Manfred. The present set of incidental music – a series of vignettes which perhaps formed a schematic for Sibelius’s Tempest and Glazunov’s King of the Jews – was written for the play by Alexandr Ostrovsky (1823-1886). This was the same Ostrovsky whose writings were the inspiration for Tchaikovsky’s tone poem The Storm and his opera The Voyevoda. Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Snegurotchka is based on the same play as Tchaikovsky’s incidental music.
The competition is not numerous. There’s a full price Chandos item from Neeme Jarvi on CHAN 9324. Add to this the pioneering complete version by Gauk tucked away as CD 8 in a
Brilliant Classics box. At the price there is nothing comparable available. But this is not a case of faute de mieux. This is an exuberantly vivid performance and recording which in Chistiakov’s hands makes the most of the variegated delights offered by 20 miniature pen-portraits, songs and atmosphere pieces. It seems that the bill for the premiere production of the play complete with orchestral contribution came to 15000 roubles, ran to only nine evenings and then disappeared. The note reminds us that Tchaikovsky recycled some of the music for his score for Hamlet in 1891 but his ambition was to fashion an opera from this material. Tchaikovsky persisted with operas as a form throughout his career but only struck gold with Onegin. The opera never transpired. That said, we should not disdain this vernally enchanting score with its orchestral essays, its choral-solo dialogues as in the chant-based Carnival Procession and its supernatural aspects. The music is often carefree as in the effervescent and soulful Melodrama and wistfully piping Interlude. The exuberant second song for Lehl (tr.8) rushes but its tongue-twisting does not cause Erassova any trouble. Quite a few of the tracks have a greater impress of Russian nationalism than we might expect given Tchaikovsky’s rejection of the style in favour of a more hyper-personal dramatic approach. Some of the tracks are balletic; others bring out pathos in a way typical of this composer. The occasional concession to bombast can be forgiven in the face of so much charm. It would perhaps have made progress in the concert hall had Tchaikovsky made a 25 minute suite from these episodes. The liner-notes are by Malcolm Macdonald.
-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Snow Maiden, Op. 12 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Nikolai Vassiliev (Baritone),
Alexander Arkhipov (Tenor),
Natalia Erasova (Soprano)
Russian State Symphony Orchestra,
Russian State Choir
Written: 1873; Russia
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Dueling reviews? March 28, 2013
By James Carleton (Port Hueneme, CA) See All My Reviews
"Isn't it wonderful when two true aficionados can have such widely differing opinions about a poorly-known work? I will be frank; John W. is right (to a degree) about the singing on this CD. Even the soprano is 'heavy', but then, she's Russian and she's a mezzo, so what should we expect? To say that she (and her two male colleagues) sings without expression, however, is... indelicate of him. I took three years of Russian in college, so maybe I just have a better feel for it than John W. did. To say that the 'music is not very appealing' is quite harsh. This is very appealing material, and it resonates with many tinges of the ballets to come. Perhaps the problem is that the material does not flow together as a symphony would, or even a ballet. Unfortunately, that is the nature of 'incidental music', and Tchaikovsky has done a fair job of making the basic story line 'show' in his music. Grieg did no better with Peer Gynt; where he succeeded was in making so many of the little pieces self-standing. With the exception of 'The Dance of the Tumblers', and maybe one or two other bits, there is no argument that most of these pieces would not work as concert encores, or on a CD of 'Favorite whatevers'. To paraphrase John W, this recording is of a rare piece, but one that deserves to be heard more often. Perhaps some enterprising young conductor will extract a suite of four or five numbers and present it in a concert alongside, oh, the Grieg or Dvorak piano concerto and maybe the suite from 'Appalachian Spring', or a Mozart Symphony. It's more than good enough for some public performances."
Found Wanting. September 3, 2012
By DR J W. (WOORI YALLOCK, VIC) See All My Reviews
"This is not the Tchaikovsky of his ballets, concertos or symphonies- but something different. The music is not very appealing, but the major problem in this CD is the singing. The voices are deep, harsh, and for long periods completely without expression.
This recording is of a rare piece. and deserves to remain so."