is an engaging slice of youthful Boris Tchaikovsky – works
written between the ages of twenty-five and twenty-nine
and played by contemporary champions of his music. Nothing
here is especially serious-minded but it’s all crafted
and orchestrated with skill and projects youthful, unashamed
high spirits. Certainly nothing would have raised the hackles
of the then arbiters of cultural taste.
on Russian Folk Themes
is the earliest of the works
here, written in 1950. Not surprisingly the shadow that
looms most obviously is that of his teacher, Miaskovsky,
whose noble patina surely haunts the opening melody,
suffusing it with the greatest lyricism and seriousness
of utterance – rich, burnished, glorious. Thankfully
it’s mobile too so there is no suggestion of stodginess
and with one of Miaskovsky’s greatest proselytisers on
the rostrum, Alexander Gauk, things are in the safest
of hands. Gauk also gave the premiere of this work so
there is an authentic whiff about it. Scherzo vitality
follows, along with powerfully building brassy climaxes
and scurrying strings, just kept on the rails, along
with more reflective slower material. As one would expect
it’s all quite conventionally set out - though there
are Sibelian moments too, as well, that arrest the attention
(the Fifth Symphony, possibly, an influence). The climax
is bold, brassy, raw and exciting – and that’s just how
Gauk and the orchestra play it.
the works here though surely the finest is the Sinfonietta
string orchestra, something that really should have a toehold
on the international repertoire, if there were any justice.
It has great clarity of expression and is richly lyrically
rewarding – not to mention beautifully distributed thematically.
Its mellifluous generosity is laced with fairly standard
devices – such as pizzicato incidents – but they are always
used with great discretion and wit. There is a charmer
of a Waltz and a noble Variations third movement – when
the themes pass to the double basses the sound is fabulously
sonorous and enfolding. String distribution is splendid
throughout, top to bottom, like a Bulgarian choir and you
really do need a saturnine, Stygian-black bass section
to do the work justice. Vital and questing the Rondo finale
ends this excitingly and deftly. Once again Gauk does the
honours. He wasn’t always the subtlest of conductors but
when he was on form – which was more often than detractors
say - he really did bring home the bacon.
1954 Capriccio on English Themes
is none too serious
and Scots will note geographical inexactitude in the work’s
title. But for eight minutes this is a whimsical diversion,
blaringly extrovert and jovial; perky and pawky alternately
and laced with folkloric scuttles.
there is the Slavonic Rhapsody
dating from 1951
and given in this performance by a more underrated and
lesser-known conductor, the excellent Samuil Samosud, directing
the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra. This takes Bulgarian,
Polish and Czech themes in succession. The opening Adagio
brings us a sonorous, powerful, sinewy-romantic peak of
string efflorescence that still retains its Bulgar qualities.
The light wind-led themes of the Polish movement are good
humoured and Scherzo-refined whilst the Czech movement
opens with an alto flute and gradually sweeps along – tuneful,
and effusive. It’s a pleasing work, generously performed.
conclusion then; delightfully open-hearted music and music
making. Lyricism and warmth meet their match in sometimes
rawly recorded (of course) but always galvanising performances.
(includes review index)