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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 – 1893)
Piano Concerto no. 1 in B flat minor
1812 Overture

Arkady Sevidov, piano
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra/Samuel Friedmann
Concerto recorded October 1996, Overture recorded July 1996, Russian Broadcast and Recording Department, Studio 5, Moscow
ARTE NOVA CLASSICS 74321 43327 [50:06] Superbudget

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Two Tchaikovsky ‘block-busters’, given here, I regret to say, in unremarkable performances. Sevidov is a dependable soloist in the concerto, but has little special insight or imagination to bring to this war-horse. There are many fine versions, and there is certainly nothing here to come close to Argerich’s magnificent DG account. Sevidov, as I say, does a good job, and all the notes are definitely there, which is saying something. It is the orchestral accompaniment that reduces this to a distinctly pedestrian interpretation; Friedmann has a stolid, ‘kappelmeister’ approach to the music, which sometimes had me almost screaming in frustration, for he often resolutely refuses to let the music move forward urgently when it must do so. The orchestra tries hard, and there is some genuinely expressive playing, in particular from principal woodwind soloists. But the general impression is turgid, unyielding.

The same problems mar the 1812 Overture, surely a piece for which performers have to adopt a ‘no-holds-barred’ attitude. This isn’t great music, as Tchaikovsky himself readily admitted (though of course he wasn’t the most reliable witness where his own music was concerned, as is the case with many composers), and it needs a firm hand if it is to succeed. There are balance problems in the ‘cellos at the start (lower players overbalancing the melody line), and other details are not sufficiently vividly projected to make the piece come alive. The booklet notes, brief as they are, are amusingly misleading, suggesting that the 1812 Overture is a somewhat unfamiliar piece! This is sloppy production, caused by an unedited translation of the original Russian notes by Irene Brandenburg; it’s not hard to believe that 1812 is unfamiliar in Russia, but in the west that is certainly not the case.

At the climax of the piece, the notoriously repetitive descending scales are allowed to slow down grotesquely, so that they seem even more absurd than usual, and the ending seems strangely muted; plenty of bells, but no cannons that I could hear, just a few half-hearted bangs from off-stage.

If you are desperate for this particular coupling, you might try this to see whether you can live with the performances – otherwise my advice would be ‘steer clear’!

Gwyn Parry-Jones

 


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