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Ravishing colloquy

Orchestral music by Tchaikovsky -
reviewed by

'... sumptuous and highly disciplined playing ...'

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 5 in E minor; Serenade in C. London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sian Edwards and Norman Del Mar. © 1979,1991,2004 EMI Records Ltd

Romeo and Juliet was kick-started by Balakirev at a time when Tchaikovsky, not yet thirty, felt burnt out. The older man produced a programme in which main Shakespearian figures were positioned in a scheme flexible enough to allow music its head. Friar Lawrence, as responsible for the catastrophe, should begin; the Montagues and Capulets must fiercely battle as background to the ill-starred love; and the teenage pair (Tchaikovsky's favourite young man age was fifteen) would take centre stage with their passion. Balakirev suggested a key sequence, urged Tchaikovsky to put on galoshes, take a walking-stick, and pace the boulevards in the conviction that inspiration would come; the result was a masterpiece, with Romeo and Juliet in ravishing colloquy [listen -- CD-9921 track 5, 6:24-7:33].

Tchaikovsky Symphonies 4 and 6. Russian Federal Orchestra / Vakhtang Jordania. © 1979,1991,2004 EMI Records Ltd

The Russian Federal Orchestra is by definition post-Soviet. It was founded in 1993, a comparative upstart, yet able to call on players drilled in the best Russian tradition. The outcome is a freshness and vigour in performance under the Georgian conductor Vakhtang Jordania that is always stimulating but sometimes unpolished. Ensemble may not always be precise, balance may be less judicious than enthusiastic. It is very different from the sumptuous and highly disciplined playing the London Philharmonic can produce, whether in 1979 under Norman Del Mar or a dozen years later under Sian Edwards.

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Copyright © 6 February 2005 Robert Anderson, London UK


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