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Tchaikovsky: Overtures, Vol. 2 - Chauhan

Tchaikovsky: Overtures, Vol. 2 - Chauhan

Chandos  CHSA 5331

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Tchaikovsky: Fatum, Hamlet, Capriccio Italien

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Alpesh Chauhan (conductor)


Alpesh Chauhan’s début recording for Chandos – Tchaikovsky: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1 (CHSA 5300) – met with widespread critical acclaim and awards, including recording of the week for both The Times and Presto Music, and the BBC Music magazine’s Orchestral Choice. This second volume – with the same forces – offers equally crisp and attentive playing from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, in another album that mixes well-known and less-heard Tchaikovsky. Three purely orchestral works form the core of the programme: Fatum (an early concert piece inspired by and dedicated to Balakirev), Hamlet (the last of his Shakespeare-inspired pieces), and Capriccio italien. These are interspersed with works conceived for the theatre: the Introduction to his opera The Queen of Spades and excerpts from The Oprichnik (an early opera) and The Snow Maiden (incidental music for a play by Ostrovsky). The album was recorded in Glasgow City Halls in SURROUND-SOUND and is available as a hybrid SACD and in Dolby ATMOS immersive audio.

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Reviews (1)

Review by Graham Williams - March 13, 2024

Alpesh Chauhan's second exploration of Tchaikovsky's orchestral music with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra maintains its commitment to a well-balanced selection, seamlessly weaving together some less-known gems with more familiar pieces.

The decision to commence Chauhan's program with the debut of the symphonic poem 'Fatum' is both inspired and satisfying. This early composition, initially dedicated to Mily Balakirev, fell victim to Tchaikovsky's self-doubt, leading to the destruction of the manuscript. Posthumously reconstructed from the premiere's orchestral parts, Chauhan and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra deliver a compelling rendition. The sombre and dramatic opening showcases the refulgent Scottish brass and robust percussion, while the gorgeous melody that follows, executed by the strings with a captivating simplicity, underscores a masterful performance of this underappreciated work.

Following this, a vibrant account of the enchanting dances from Act IV of Tchaikovsky's opera 'The Oprichnik' illustrates the composer's unparalleled melodic and choreographic prowess, adding a delightful finesse to the collection.

Undoubtedly, the pinnacle of this SACD lies in the fiery interpretation of 'Hamlet,' the Fantasy Overture after Shakespeare, where Chauhan draws electrifying playing from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. The nuanced opening sets the stage for an allegro vivace, marked by a tam-tam crash that sends shivers down the spine. Chauhan's dynamic and rhythmically incisive conducting captivates the listener, skilfully navigating the contrasting episodes of the drama with absolute confidence.

The brief yet impactful introduction to Tchaikovsky's 'The Queen of Spades' is executed with precision, though some may argue it lacks the Slavic passion brought to it by others, most notably Valery Gergiev. Nonetheless, it sparks curiosity about how a complete performance under Chauhan's direction might unfold.

‘Capriccio italien’ is the most familiar piece on this disc and the catalogue boasts countless versions of it from conductors both past and present. Chauhan's performance stands out for its poised and expressively moulded opening paragraphs, coupled with fleet and crisply articulated orchestral playing that avoids the ponderousness found in some rival interpretations.

Back in 1994 Chandos issued a fine recording on CD of Tchaikovsky’s complete incidental music for Ostrovsky’s play ‘The Snow Maiden’ featuring two vocal soloists, chorus and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra conducted by Neeme Järvi. Here Alpesh Chauhan completes his programme with three purely orchestral numbers from the work: the Introduction from the Prologue, the Melodrama from Act II and the Act III Dance of the Tumblers, the latter performed with irresistible joie de vivre.

The bright and reverberant acoustic of the Grand Hall, City Halls, Glasgow, where this programme was recorded (10-12 January 2023) gives the sound a burnished quality that suits the music well, while the accomplished Chandos team (recording engineer Ralph Couzens and producer Brian Pidgeon) once again achieves an impeccable balance of clarity, richness, and visceral impact, preserving intricate details as evident in Chauhan's earlier Tchaikovsky recording.

In every aspect, this recording stands as another strong recommendation for Tchaikovsky enthusiasts.

Copyright © 2024 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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