Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
The Tempest, Op.18 (1873) [23’57]
Hamlet, Op.67 (1888) [19’56]
1812 Overture, Op.49 (1880) [16’50]
Oregon Symphony/James DePreist
Recorded in the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland, Oregon 7-8 Sept 1988 DDD
DELOS D/CD 3081 [61’03]


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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 sound.

Tony Haywood


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