Swan Lake, Op.20 [selections]
Symphonic Dances, Op.45
St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded 14 April 2008 in Great Philharmonic Hall, St Petersburg (Swan Lake) and 26 August 2008 in Lucerne Concert Hall
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: January 2011
CD No: SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD229
Duration: 75 minutes
Not an obvious coupling maybe, beyond these composers being Russian, save that Rachmaninov greatly admired Tchaikovsky and that his Symphonic Dances started off as a ballet-related project. Yuri Temirkanov and the St Petersburg Philharmonic have this music in their blood. The 40-minute selection from Swan Lake is very enjoyable and is also well-chosen in terms of numbers, the performances here as choreographic as they are theatrical. The great ‘Waltz’ from Act One is given a buoyant reading, and ‘Dance of the Swans’ has a twinkle in the eye. The dances from Act Three – whether Hungarian, Spanish or Polish – are vividly played with panache and virtuosity, Temirkanov moving things along but without undue haste and with some fine instrumental solos. Indeed the lack of heaviness reminds that this is a ballet score, but there is no lack of expressiveness or sensitivity, and the Finale is roof-raising.
The Rachmaninov (his final work) receives a vibrant reading, vividly detailed, Temirkanov ideally setting a Non Allegro tempo for the opening movement, its saxophone-led central section really blossoming. This is an edgy and emotional account, carefully phrased and sounded, and ultimately revealed as the soulful and volatile masterpiece that it is. Written for Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, this partnership made an unequalled recording in 1960. Temirkanov and his St Petersburg players run it very close in a very rewarding performance, one goes to the edge in the final bars to a sustained gong-stroke for the audience to crash into.
Recorded live, the sound (from both locations) is a mix of tangibility and attractive recession with a warm underbelly of timbres and a wide dynamic range. Altogether this is an impressive and enthusiastically recommended release.