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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Cantatas for soloists, choir and orchestra

Moscow (1882) [25.57]
N. Derbina; A Polyakov
Choir and Large Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio/Gennady Cherkasov
Festival Cantata - In memory of Peter the Great's 200th anniversary (1871) [31:53]
Lev Kuznetsov; Large Choir of Moscow Radio/Kavdiy Ptitsa; Moscow Radio 1982.
Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra/V. Kozhukhar, live 1982.
Nature and Love for two sopranos, alto, choir and piano (1870) [8.40]
R Glushkova; T Alexandrova, L Simonova, Women's Group of the State Radio Choir/L Yermakova, T Kravchenko (piano)
rec. Moscow: live Studio 5, State Radio House, Moscow, 1988; Festival: 1982-1988, ADD/DDD
REGIS RRC 1182 [65.25]


Two half hour cantatas with soloists, chorus and orchestra and one cycle for three soloists with choir and piano ... all from the pen of Tchaikovsky.

Festival and academic cantatas poured forth from Sibelius, Nielsen, Alfvén and many another late nineteenth century composer. These were valuable income-producing commissions and even carried some transient prestige. For the most part however they have sunk deep into oblivion. They are fairly expensive to mount and so it should come as no surprise that in any revivals they are the last thing to appear on disc. There has been no systematic attempt to give them a new lease of life - not even at the hands of Bis. Sterling, as in so many things, are an honourable exception in the case of Alfvén with two volumes already released.

The two Tchaikovsky cantatas will go some way towards satisfying the curiosity of the Tchaikovsky arcana completist. The six part Moscow piece (each with its own track) is to words by Apollon Maykov. It basks in the melodramatic crimson of Natalya Derbina; she certainly has her role by the throat. Listen to her implacable concentration in the ‘pendulum of time’ tolling though Am I a warrior. The final section is grand and the choral part blazes - the two soloists stand and deliver like true stalwarts. The vibrantly rushing repeated string waves echo with 1812 (tr. 6 4.55) and the brass writing growls magnificently as it also does at the end of section 4 From the Large Forest (4.34).

The Festival Cantata is in one half hour track. It was written as a remunerative distraction from the composer’s work on the opera The Oprichnik and Tchaikovsky fled from the opportunity to hear the premiere and its second performance. From a shadowy opening we move into a typically light-bright section for optimistic woodwind. Kuznetsov is as strong and solid a tenor as you could hope for - lean and robust, ringing of tone, rising clear of the magnificent din of choir and orchestra in Borodin-like crashing magnificence (17.32). As with Moscow, the orchestra and choir go at it hammer and tongs - no-one could accuse them of being luke warm and even if the ending recalls Borodin's Polovtsians no-one will feel short-changed.

After the inky barbaric splendour of the Festival Cantata's peroration we move to the touching Nature and Love which is beautifully and entwiningly sung by the two sopranos and an alto. This is ecstatic writing recalling romantic twilit veranda scenes on some Ukrainian estate. Think in terms of Tatyana's Letter scene. This is a really beautiful piece and should be widely heard.

Invaluable notes by James Murray again. Apart from the merest hint of blast in the more extreme choral moments in Moscow these are vivid recordings from a gloriously purple tradition.

Rob Barnett

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