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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
The Tchaikovsky Album - Vasily Petrenko
Capriccio Italien, Op. 45 (1880) [14.28]
Romeo and Juliet (1869, rev. third 1880 version) [19.50]
Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32 (1876) [23.56]
1812 Overture, Op. 49 (1880) [13.56]
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko
rec. 2009-13, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, UK

Vasily Petrenko became principal conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO) in 2006. It’s safe to say that Petrenko’s tenure has been an overwhelming success and his reputation and that of the orchestra has gone from strength to strength. Released on the Classic FM label is this excellent ‘Tchaikovsky Album’ consisting of four popular works from the great Russian composer; repertoire that Petrenko knows so well. I’m sure many readers will have noticed the connection that both composer and conductor studied at the Saint Petersburg Conservatoire.

Opening the album is the Capriccio Italien, a work inspired by a carnival Tchaikovsky attended whilst on holiday in Italy. Described as a ‘Fantasy’ or ‘Italian Fantasia’ for orchestra it was introduced by Nikolai Rubinstein in Moscow in 1880. Written in the manner of Glinka’s Spanish fantasias, Tchaikovsky uses a number of memorable folk melodies he had heard in Italy. Right from the dark brooding atmosphere of the opening to the thrilling conclusion Petrenko radiates bold assurance with this colourful score, so compellingly played by the RLPO.

One of many works in the classical music repertoire based on Shakespeare plays Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet originally composed in 1870 is presented here in the third revised version from 1880 subtitled 'Overture-Fantasia'. It was Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov who premièred the score in 1886 in Tbilisi. Under Petrenko’s polished baton it is hard to imagine this glorious music receiving greater advocacy.

Based on Canto V of the Inferno from Dante’s La Divina Commedia, Tchaikovsky wrote his Symphonic Fantasy: Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32 in 1876. Nikolay Rubinstein directed the score in 1877 in Moscow at a Russian Musical Society concert. The excellent playing of the RLPO is especially noticeable for its reserves of energy, expression and concentration together with such buoyant rhythms. The old repertoire warhorse the Festival Overture: 1812, Op. 49 dates from 1880 and was written to mark the 70th anniversary of Russia having repelled Napoleon’s Grande Armée in 1812. It was Ippolit Al'tani who conducted the premiere in 1882 in Moscow. Today in concert it is not unusual for cannon and fireworks or other visual pyrotechnics to add to the effect. The score has become a mainstay of the USA’s Independence Day celebrations. The RLPO give a brilliant and cogent account and it is quite thrillingly rendered with Petrenko drawing everything together.

The sound team have produced excellent sonics and the audio image is especially clear and well balanced. There is an impeccable integrity about Petrenko’s readings and such sincere, high quality music-making avoids any hint of the ostentatious. The RLPO's rhythmic security and ardently characterful playing delivers gold standard interpretations. Even if it entails duplication many Tchaikovsky devotees will, quite understandably, be anxious to add this stunning CFM recording to their collections.

Michael Cookson


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