The first notable thing to comment on regarding this
Delos re-issue is the spectacular sound quality. The orchestra is caught
with amazing amplitude, depth and sonorous weight, whilst detail is
admirably clear. The whole stage ‘picture’ is realistic, probably a
mixture of excellent acoustics, engineering skill and DePreist’s ear
for orchestral balance.
It is good, too, to report positive things on the musical
front. The Oregon band have been moulded into a first-rate ensemble,
with all the attributes necessary for successful Tchaikovsky playing;
supple, mellifluous strings, beautifully characterful woodwind and heroic,
full-blooded brass playing. All these qualities come to the fore in
my own personal favourite work on the disc, the Hamlet fantasy.
This piece was, of course, brought to many music lovers’ attention via
the famous Stokowski Everest LP (coupled with a hair-raising Francesca
da Rimini, now re-issued on CD). Whilst the present performance
may not be quite in that league, it has many things going for it, and
with such superior sound quality, no-one should have any serious complaints.
The wonderfully evocative chords that open the piece are well balanced
by DePreist, and he is not afraid to push the tempo hard when required
(the first main allegro at 5’18 is actually a shade quicker than Stokowski).
The glorious central tune is given its full due, though mercifully without
too much sentimental distortion , and the grand peroration is suitably
spine tingling. There is nowhere near as much competition in this piece
as the other two on the disc, and apart from Stokowski (in a class of
its own) the main modern rival is Dutoit and the Montreal SO on Decca.
Though that is good, I miss some of the excitement and slight unpredictability
of this Delos version.
The other items also fare well, but competition is
very hot. The 1812 Overture is available in numerous excellent
versions, one of the best bargains being from Sian Edwards and the Royal
Liverpool P.O. on EMI Eminence (coupled with Francesca and Romeo
and Juliet). The Delos recording is even more the star attraction
here, with spectacular cannons and bells testing the hi-fi to its limits
The Tempest is one of the composer’s finest
inspirations, and this is not lost on DePreist, who manages a performance
of great subtlety and drama. As the booklet note rightly tells us, the
strikingly atmospheric introduction is of special interest. Here Tchaikovsky
presents us with an evocation of the ocean, the divided strings playing
syncopated duplets and triplets that ebb and flow in as effective a
picture of the sea in music as I know . The Oregon strings are very
responsive to their conductor’s malleable beat, and again the splendid
climaxes feel just right.
Although entering a crowded field, this lower priced
re-issue should win friends, particularly with such idiomatic, well
paced performances, all beautifully played and captured in glorious