Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
1812 Overture (i)
Polonaise; Waltz (Eugene Onegin)
Capriccio Italien
Marche Slave
Festival Coronation March
Cossack Dance (Mazeppa)

Kiev Symphony Chorus, Children's Choir of Cincinnati (i)
Cincinnati Pops Orchestra
Erich Kunzel
Rec 13 September 1999, 22 September 1998, Music Hall, Cincinnati, Masonic Auditorium, Cleveland
TELARC CD 80541 [60.23]
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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 1812 Overture.

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 demand.

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.

Terry Barfoot


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