A cursory glance at the annotation might suggest that Evgeny Svetlanov is involved in this performance of Tchaikovsky’s music for The Sleeping Beauty, but the name of the legendary Russian musician (1928-2002) has been added to the orchestra he conducted for many years. This recording then is solely the inspiration of Vladimir Jurowski who leads a superb account of the complete score, every note of it. Captured in vivid and tangible – yet natural – sound the opening pages of this concert outing are thrillingly dramatic, suggesting great things to come, and what is promised is delivered.
Throughout the 160 minutes, Jurowski’s affection for the music, and the orchestra’s seasoned response to it, offers many rewards, presenting a vast symphonic canvas as much as a story with dancers: without having to attend to choreographic needs Jurowski (who discusses tempos relative to stage and concert in the booklet interview) is able to focus entirely on musical needs, and these he judges to a nicety. Much beauty, scintillation and suggestion is gifted to the listener now sharing what must have been an exhilarating evening in Moscow, the players as fresh and as committed at the end of it as they were at the beginning.
Aided by his ear for clarity of detail and articulation, feel for drama and characterisation (be it regal, diamantine, sinister or catty, and not forgetting the bluebird), and inspiring some terrific playing – whether solo (the individual players named, invidious as it is I must pick out clarinettist Mikhail Beznosov) or corporate – a sense of rightness informs Jurowski’s traversal of the score, sustaining its length and (here) completeness. It's a testimony to Tchaikovsky’s genius to create consistently great music in circumstances where, however extensive, it might have played ‘second fiddle’ to that could be watched, the dancing, costumes and decor.
When it comes to his handling of what might be termed ‘highlights’ – those numbers that habitually appear in suites or selections – Jurowski is not found wanting, the Act One ‘Waltz’ is beautifully judged, for example, full of Imperial swirl, and whether requiring elegance, sensitivity or full-on theatrical projection, this account covers what is needed. There are other notable versions of Sleeping Beauty (of course) – such as Ansermet, Bonynge, Lanchbery, Pletnev, Previn, Rozhdestvensky, Slatkin and, indeed, Svetlanov – to which distinguished company Jurowski easily joins, fabulous playing and opulent sound providing further good reasons to invest. The concluding ‘Apotheosis’ is gloriously roof-raising, applause retained for a few seconds, apt on this occasion.