This recording was
set down a fortnight after Tilson Thomas's
inaugural concert with the SFSO. It
makes for an outstanding representation
of the ballet for collectors who would
rather have a very generous sampling
(29 tracks) instead of the whole thing.
MTT has a great feeling
for aggressive movement without scouting
over emotional messages. The upward-floating
moonlight of Balcony Scene (tr. 15)
is portrayed in breathtaking tenderness.
This is not an isolated instance either;
try Madrigal (tr. 13) and 'Romeo And
Juliet' (tr. 24).
The spurs are applied
in the pummelling wave-beat of Interlude
at 26 as the brass tier call out in
indomitably stentorian tones. The recording
quality is exceptional with The Quarrel
(tr. 4) a good demonstration track.
Its antiphonal effects, darting backwards
and forwards, are memorable. Delicacy
is on call as well with the orchestra’s
account of Juliet’s speeding tiptoes
likely to impress even the most stolid
listener. The spatial sense is well
conveyed with the brass dazzlingly caught
over a wide soundstage as in the Introduction
to Act III.
The success of the
score depends also on the ability to
juxtapose cordite and peaches. This
is unflinchingly captured in ‘The Duke’s
Command’ (tr. 6). The paranoia inherent
in the ‘Mandolin Dance’ is caught with
a manic wildness as never before not
even by Rozhdestvensky or Algis Zuraitis
(both complete sets); the latter well
worth tracking down on CFP provided
you are not allergic to the Soviet performing
The music goes for
little unless there is blaze and blare
in ‘The Death of Tybalt’ and that
it gets though the effect is not quite
as monumental as it can be. A healthy
string glow is in evidence throughout:
neither over-plush nor starveling. This
is exemplified in ‘Juliet's Death’ where,
even at high pressure, the strings keep
their lustre and yield rather than taking
on an iron harshness.
The conductor is to
be congratulated for ending what amounts
to an extended Romeo and Juliet ‘symphony’
in such repose rather than in clamour.