Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
A Tribute to Tchaikovsky
Thème original et variations Op. 19 in F major [11:38]; Nocturne Op.10 [3:52]; Romance Op. 5 in F minor [5:49]; Romance Op. 51 No. 5 in F major [7:02]; Valse sentimentale Op. 51 No. 6 in F minor [5:10]; Rêverie interrompue Op. 40 No. 12 in A flat Major [4:20]; Capriccio Op. 8 in G flat major [5:41]; Dialogue Op. 72 No. 8 in B major [3:51]; Berceuse Op. 72 No. 2 in A flat major [6:03]; Tendres reproches Op. 72 No. 3 in C sharp minor [2:48]; Méditation Op. 72 No. 5 in D major [4:50]; Chant élégiaque Op. 72 No.14 in D flat major [7.05]
Vladimir Feltsman (piano)
rec. 4-5 June 2011, Fisher Performing Arts Center, Bard College, New York.

A Tribute to Tchaikovsky is a very attractive CD compilation of short, tuneful pieces highly characteristic of the composer. I suppose it’s not what you would call great piano music, rather a collection of pleasant miniatures that delight the ear. Mr Feltsman calls it intimate salon music and that’s a very good description. The general style is very much in the same vein as Tchaikovsky’s more well-known work The Seasons; if that appeals to you so will the contents of this disc. Most of the items presented here don’t plumb any great musical depths but it’s all very melodic and charming. The Thème original et variations opens the recital in splendid fashion - there’s clearly an innate natural feeling for the idiom, sparkling technique and the playing is beautifully understated as befits this kind of music. There are some similarities to Schumann in this opening piece as the sleeve-note suggests but it’s also unmistakably by Tchaikovsky. The final flourish is tremendously exciting. Two minor masterpieces bring the disc to a conclusion, the Méditation Op. 72 No. 5 with its memorable opening theme and dramatic central climax and the enchanting, Liszt-like Chant élégiaque Op. 72 No.14. The rest of the programme really does enter the world of salon music. There are echoes of Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schubert and Liszt to be heard throughout this disc. It would be harsh to suggest that the works contained here are stylised or derivative. The recital is well planned with notable mood-changes from piece to piece - romances, waltzes and tender nocturnes all have their place alongside more lively, technically challenging numbers.
Vladimir Feltsman performs the whole programme in a gentle introverted fashion and this approach sounds absolutely right. The playing is first rate with tasteful rubato and excellent control of dynamics; every detail and nuance shines through. This isn’t really concert hall music as such and at no time does the playing become hectoring, over-emotional or virtuosic for the sake of it. It’s all very natural and enjoyable. The pianist’s programme notes state that the pieces in this recording were selected to be heard as a single composition. I personally fail to make any such connection but that’s not really important. What matters here is that we have a marvellous recital on our hands and it deserves to be successful.
The piano sound is good rather than outstanding. It’s typical of many modern digital recordings, sounding a bit top-heavy and thin and lacking a true, deep resonant bottom end. It doesn’t have the thrilling resonance of a live concert grand. At least the image is set slightly back, making it a comfortable experience and the music-making has a natural impact. This disc is very much for Tchaikovsky enthusiasts and lovers of tuneful, romantic piano music. I hope nobody is put off by the CD cover which features a rather grumpy looking Feltsman. The image doesn’t quite sit well with the tuneful gems included on this disc.
John Whitmore
Tchaikovsky miniatures intimately played.