Francesca da Rimini – Symphonic Fantasia after Dante, Op.32
Romeo and Juliet – Fantasy Overture
Eugene Onegin – Waltz & Polonaise
The Year 1812 – Festival Overture, Op.49
Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Banda Musicale della Polizia di Stato
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Recorded at concerts in December 2005 and July 2006 (Romeo & Juliet) in Sala Santa Cecilia, Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: January 2007
CD No: EMI 3 70065 2
Duration: 71 minutes
This superb issue of familiar Tchaikovsky pieces begins with a white-hot and incident-packed account of Francesca da Rimini, full of fury and passion and with a tension that sustains the whole through a vivid and dynamic adventure in sound and emotions. There’s plenty of sensitivity in the love-music that is the central tableau, launched by an imploring clarinet solo. Storm-tossed, driven and orgiastic, Pappano’s conducting of ‘Francesca’ joins classic versions of it by Rozhdestvensky (DG) and Barbirolli (also EMI).
The Orchestra of St Cecilia certainly pulls out all the stops for its Music Director; the playing is characterful and confident, and well-honed by Pappano – an orchestral delivery both responsive and inspired. Romeo and Juliet broods with anticipation and if the fight music is just a little reined in, then the mutual attraction of the ill-fated lovers is handled with rapturous bloom, Pappano building the excitement gradually with a long-term sense of growth; the final chord is held long enough to drive the tragedy home.
The ‘Onegin’ excerpts sport a chorus and three solo vocal spots for the ‘Waltz’ (as in the opera); this and the ‘Polonaise’ are played with gusto. So too ‘1812’, also with chorus (excellent approximation of ‘real’ Russian bass), which ends in something of a gallop – with brass band (courtesy of the local constabulary) but seemingly without cannons (bass drum(s) instead?) and the whole is fresh-minted and reminds what a thoroughly good piece this is.
Recorded live, the sound is wonderfully immediate and vivid (Pappano’s use of antiphonal violins made explicit) and adds the icing to a Tchaikovskian cake that is rich in ingredients and cooked to perfection. A diet-free zone!