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Andrew Palmer
Group Editor
1:09 AM 10th June 2023
arts
Review

Classical Music: Tchaikovsky

 
Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky:

La Tempête (The Tempest), Op. 18 Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32; Overture and Polonaise from ‘Cherevichki’ The Voyevoda, Op. 78;

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Alpesh Chauhan


Chandos CHSA 5300

The album was recorded in Glasgow City Halls in Surround Sound and is available as a Hybrid SACD and in Dolby Atmos spatial audio.


It is no surprise that Chandos is making this album its disc of the month. From the outset, the quality of the recorded sound is outstanding, and the minutiae are superbly observed.

City Hall in Glasgow resounds with glorious interpretations from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Alpesh Chauhan, who will cause a storm of excited praise for this, his debut album.


The clarity from all four departments is top-notch. In writing of storms, the main work is Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini (based on the tale in Dante’s Inferno), and was written after Tchaikovsky had attended the première of Wagner’s Ring cycle in Bayreuth – an influence discernible particularly in the brass chords. For Chauhan, he builds up an atmospheric storm with flashes of swirling sound, highlighting excellent string-playing along with the woodwind and brass gloriously captured in thrilling crescendos. The clarinet in the andante cantabile third section, as the storm subsides, is lovely, and the strings add tonal depth. Then, as we approach the last section, we feel intensity; the wind is blowing a hooley created through thrilling brass and percussion, never intruding but making an impact, trombones blasting away.

The disc opens in a similar vein with an exciting performance of the Symphonic Ballad The Voyevoda, based on Adam Mickiewicz’s poem The Ambush and the first orchestral work to include the (newly invented) celeste. As an opener, it sets the scene well for the rest of the disc, with Chauhan’s attention to detail bringing out all the subtlety in colour and a lovely tone from the strings and a sinister bass clarinet plus gunshot in, as David Nice writes, ‘a rapid death sequence outlined by doom-laden low brass in a manner which Tchaikovsky would reuse at the end of the ‘Pathétique’ Symphony – the voyevoda breathes his last.’

Also included are the lovely Overture and Polonaise from the comic opera Cherevichki. La Tempête, from 1873, is based on Shakespeare’s play The Tempest and shows that Tchaikovsky’s unique voice and style were already fully developed. The SSO expressively brings the story and score to life with sensitive and passionate performances. It is a joy to hear all the detail of this understated score played so well.

Chandos, the BBC SSO, and Chauhan have triumphed in a CD that is bursting with full-blooded excitement.

Bring on the next recording.