Originally published on May 21
You can rely upon recording engineer Ralph Couzens to faithfully capture the acoustic signature of a venue, here the space, depth and clarity of City Halls Glasgow (July 2022), and Brian Pidgeon is a producer who aims for the immaculate coupled with the spontaneous. It’s up to the musicians to do their bit within such inviting conditions.
Opening the disc is an urgent and impassioned Voyevoda, alive with detail, incident and picturesque expression, turning from amorous to despair and an ambiguous ending via an orchestral gunshot (11:35). Closing this collection is a very good Francesca da Rimini if at the mercy of the great, such as Rozhdestvensky in Leningrad (DG) and Barbirolli with the New Philharmonia (now Warner). Alpesh Chauhan and the BBC Scottish certainly whip up a hellish storm if elsewhere are a little short on doom-laden atmosphere, and the conclusion isn’t as enveloping or as dramatically final as it might be, yet the clarinet-led Andante cantabile section finds the lovers beguilingly infatuated while sheltered from the severe surroundings (fine string-playing, decorous woodwinds) and thrillingly climactic, lingered and sonorous.
Between these works are the Overture and ‘Polonaise’ from Cherevichki (a comic-fantastic opera usually translated as ‘The Slippers’), neither excerpt being vintage Tchaikovsky if likeable selections, and The Tempest, an ambitious opus of distinction, one of the composer’s ‘fantasia’ dalliances with Shakespeare, brought off by Chauhan and the SSO with considerable description and flair, the music given time to paint scenes and draw characters as well as dynamically traverse between scurrying whispers and thrilling emotional tsunamis.
Chandos CHSA 5300 [SACD] is released on June 2.