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Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Eugene Onegin (1879)
Polonaise [4:38]
Valse [6:19]
Écossaise [2:00]
The Maid of Orléans (1881)
Entr’acte [3:19]
Danse des bohémiens [6:54]
Danse de polichinelles et des histrions [4:05]
Oprichnik (1872)
Danses [5:45]
The Sorceress (1887)
Introduction [6:14]
Danse des histrions et scène [3:35]
Cherevichki (Oxana’s Caprices) (1875, 1887) (originally Vakula The Smith)
Introduction [3:18]
Danse russe [3:32]
Danse des cosaques [3:16]
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Sir Colin Davis
rec. London, December 1977. ADD
PHILIPS ELOQUENCE 442 8933 [53:37]

It is remarkably fitting that this collection of balletic morsels from the Tchaikovsky operas should have been recorded by an opera-house orchestra. The wild-card is Colin Davis who is no stranger to the opera house but is not the first name you link with Tchaikovsky. In fact all is well from the get-go.

Davis turns in rattlingly vital performances aided by a nicely present abrasion to the brass. He is perhaps a mite too fast in the Onegin Valse but its stateliness s not compromised. This was an unusual collection – although there has more recently been something similar from Naxos – in that we get dance episodes from the rarer operas. However from Onegin we get a sliver of a dance never previously excerpted in the shape of the rapid-breathless Ecossaise.  The Entr’acte from The Maid of Orleans has more of a flavour of the symphonic Tchaikovsky with a deeper emotional reach and a broader passion. The rustic Danse des bohémiens occasionally sounds like Greg but the bright Danse des polichinelles et des histrions nicely recalls the Fifth Symphony. The Oprichnik – Danses drifts in style between Borodin-Rimsky and a sound that I associate with Ketèlbey. The Introduction to The Sorceress is an operatic prelude again moving within the stylistic bounds marked out by the Balakirev and Borodin overtures. Cherevichki (not ‘Cherevinchki’ as it appears on the cover of the booklet) again has that Kouchka redolence but one of the ideas in the Introduction sounds like the Fourth Symphony or arts of Nutcracker. The Danse russe is gentle and chimingly effective with some flavour of Mozart’s music for wind ensemble at 1:02. The disc ends with Danse des cosaques and not surprisingly this returns us explosively to the world of the Russian nationalists.

The modest playing time betrays the collection’s LP origins.

An unhackneyed sample of the operatic-balletic Tchaikovsky culled from the well known and the neglected operas – brilliant performed and recorded.

Rob Barnett



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