Telarc is a company with a proud tradition of making
spectacular orchestral recordings, and these artists have featured in
some of them, including previous issues of Tchaikovsky, including the
The Overture begins this programme, and somewhat dominates
it. For those who know the work _ and most music lovers would claim
some acquaintance with it _ the opening makes a particular impression,
since it has the Russian theme sung by unaccompanied voices rather than
played orchestrally. That being so, it is an extraordinary oversight
that the booklet notes do not carry text and translation for either
this or the other distinctive themes that are presented vocally in this
performance. Both the Kiev Chorus and the Cincinnati Children's Choir
acquit themselves well enough, but again the booklet lets us down when
it comes to the selection of this vocal-orchestral edition, not even
mentioning its provenance.
Kunzel conducts the Overture very well, while the recording
matches the bold claims made for it, particularly as regards the successful
integration of the bells and the sundry explosions. If there is a criticism,
it is that the Cincinnati strings sound somewhat under-nourished, lacking
the richness of tone the expressive intensity of the Russian style might
The three dances from the operas Eugene Onegin and
Mazeppa are done with real élan; the Polonaise from the last
act of Onegin is particularly good. Tchaikovsky wrote this and the Cossack
Dance from Mazeppa as purely orchestral pieces, but the Waltz from Onegin
is quite different, an ensemble number featuring soloists and chorus
too. So the question is: did Tchaikovsky make this arrangement himself?
No answer from the booklet notes, alas. This performance does not stand
up across its six-minute time span particularly successfully, lacking
the inner tension which was so crucial a factor in the original.
The Capriccio Italien is one of Tchaikovsky's most
vulgar pieces: gloriously so, of course. Kunzel and the Cincinnati Orchestra
sound somewhat mild-mannered at times, under-playing the rhetoric, but
they certainly capture the festive spirit of the Festival Coronation
March, a rarity which adds to the appeal of this interesting compilation.
The recording is impressive, easily handling the colourful
orchestral combinations and climaxes, while at the same time having
a natural sense of balance and a pleasing atmosphere.