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Jeffrey James Arts Consulting

Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Capriccio Italien, op.45 [14:20]
Symphony no.4 in F minor [40:11]
Polonaise from Eugene Onegin [4:19]
Symphony no.6 in B minor, op.74, Pathétique [43:21]
Romeo and Juliet (Overture-Fantasia) [17:45]
ANGELOK CD 9920/21 Russian Federal Orchestra/Vakhtang Jordania
Recorded at the Radio Palace Hall, Moscow, Russia, July 2000 (Symphony no.6, Romeo and Juliet and Capriccio Italien), and May 2000 (Symphony no.4 and Polonaise)
ANGELOK CD 9920/21 [59:09 + 61:08]


Iím afraid this is a short review, as I canít honestly say I would recommend anyone to spend their hard-earned cash on this Russian double-album. This is some of the most frequently recorded repertoire to be found, and the competition is fierce: Mravinsky, Sinopoli, Karajan and Furtwängler have all produced classic recordings, while Pletnevís comparatively recent Pathétique with the Russian National Orchestra is equally superb. Amid such company, this oneís a non-starter.

The trouble really lies with the conducting, and my worries began very near the start of CD1 where the moody theme in the strings is presented with a kind of mechanical rubato that has the melody and its brass accompaniment in two completely different tempi. The Fourth Symphony suffers all the way through from the sort of wilful driving of the music that leaves the poor orchestral players struggling in the conductorís wake. Pity the solo oboist in the slow movement, trying to introduce some flexibility into his phrasing Ė no, Vakhtang Jordania just sweeps on regardless. Clarinet theme in the first movementís second subject? Virtually inaudible behind a deafening string accompaniment. These balance problems pervade all the performances, the most farcical being the woodwind presentation of the love theme in Romeo and Juliet, totally drowned out by the counter-melody in first horn.

Things are not helped by a weirdly idiosyncratic recording; microphones are placed so close to the front desks of the strings that you can usually hear the leaderís tone as quite separate from the other fiddles, while any ícello passages are made to sound like solos, as only the principal can be heard. Unfortunately for him, Jordania canít escape the blame for this either, as he is named as the recordingís ĎExecutive Producerí.

Itís very sad, because the orchestral playing, or what you can hear of it, suggests that this orchestra might be capable of half decent readings under sympathetic and musical guidance. Alas, they donít get it this time.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

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