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Tchaikovsky: Secular Choruses
The Moscow Academy of Choral Singing, Victor Popov
In the field of choral music Tchaikovsky is known as the first Russian composer to have composed cycles of the Liturgy and the Vespers, but his considerable output of secular choral music is less well-known, and a delightful surprise. These secular choruses are little jewels, written for various types of choir, with all the familiar qualities of melody and rich harmony that we associate with Tchaikovsky.
Some, including Autumn, Child’s Song and A Legend (from 16 Children’s Songs Op.54), and the pastoral Dawn were written for solo voice or duet, and Night, a vocal quartet with piano, but Tchaikovsky soon realised that they sounded better as choruses. Autumn and Child’s Song both have a tenor solo, and contrast well with each other: a misty autumnal poem of lethargic melancholy and a comical, playful little ditty. Another highlight is the melancholy Old French Air, with its timeless charm, which also appears as a minstrel’s song in Tchaikovsky’s opera The Maid of Orleans. Other works of note include the radiant Nature and Love, a sentimental trio for soprano, mezzo and contralto, three-part female chorus and piano, and the meditative nocturne Before Sleep, composed in his student years. Greeting to Anton Rubinstein is an extraordinary seven part piece written for the 50th anniversary of Rubinstein’s career.
The Nightingale is without a doubt Tchaikovsky’s finest achievement in choral music, a magnificent reconstruction of a folk song. The vocal quartet Night is a tribute to Mozart, who Tchaikovsky idolised, and is an arrangement of the middle section of Mozart’s Fantasy in C minor for piano. The finale, Neapolitan Air, is a little choral divertissement whose tune was derived from Swan Lake.
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Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 3
This disc is the final instalment in BIS’s Tchaikovsky symphony cycle with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Neeme Järvi, a cycle which as a whole can be described as resolutely unsentimental, aiming to rid the score of the melodramatic excess that has become part of the performance tradition. The disc features the Third Symphony, nick-named ‘The Polish’ thanks to the marking of the final movement –Tempo di Polacca.
This disc also includes a number of shorter works, among which the dances from Eugene Onegin and extracts from two lesser-known works The Voyevoda and Introduction and from the music to the play Dmitri the Pretender and Vassily Shuisky. Equally unusual is the brief Serenade, written in 1872 in honour of Nikolai Rubinstein.
“Järvi's reading of the symphony… exhibits great vitality and, more importantly, an abiding warmth and affection for what one can safely say is…. Tchaikovsky's most lyrical symphonic creation. The middle movements especially repay Järvi's lightness of touch, spontaneous and luminous.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2009
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Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 1-6 and Orchestral Works
Symphonies Nos. 1-6 (complete)
The Snow Maiden, Op. 12: orchestral excerpts
Romeo & Juliet - Fantasy Overture
Overture in F major
Festival Overture on the Danish National Anthem, Op. 15
The Storm Overture (Groza), Op.76
Entr’acte and Dances of the Chambermaids (from the opera The Voyevoda, Op. 3)
Dmitri the Pretender and Vassily Shuisky, incidental music (Introduction to Act I; Mazurka)
Serenade for Nikolai Rubinstein's name-day
Entr’acte & Waltz and Polonaise (from Eugene Onegin, Op. 24)
Serenade for strings in C major, Op. 48
Elegy for strings
The Voyevoda, symphonic ballad Op. 78
Capriccio italien, Op. 45
Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32
BIS are delighted to present a boxed set of Tchaikovsky’s Symphonies and other works. The recording have been well received. Symphony No.2 ‘Little Russian’ was hailed by Gramophone as ‘an outstanding performance…beautifully played and paced and immaculately recorded’ and No.3 ‘Polish’ of which, to quote International Record Review, Järvi presented ‘a free-flowing account that places choreographic elegance before symphonic muscle.’ Besides the six numbered symphonies, this ample selection (more than 7 hours of playing time) includes favourites such as Francesca da Rimini, Capriccio italien and Serenade for Strings as well as rarities, including rarely recorded extracts from the opera The Voyevoda and the incidental music to Dmitri the Pretender and Vassily Shuisky. The recordings remain available on the original discs as Hybrid SACDs with a Surround Sound option.
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