The occasional or commemorative compositions of the great composers often have historical significance, especially when they are associated with royalty and the military, but only a few works in this category have become popular hits. Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky composed several celebratory pieces on commission to mark national events and achieved some success, despite the fact that he usually discounted them as hack work and felt embarrassed by their bombast and shallowness. The self-critical composer was wrong about the worth of two of his masterpieces, the 1812 Festival Overture, Op. 49, and the Slavonic March, Op. 31, for both are among his most played works and widely loved for their bold orchestration, abundant tunefulness, and vivid depictions of military struggles and victories. Valery Gergiev certainly had to include both of these favorites for this 2009 release from Mariinsky, for without them there would be little incentive for most people to listen to the rest of the program. The "Moscow" Cantata, the Festival Coronation March, and the Festival Overture on the Danish National Anthem, Op. 15, may be fascinating curiosities that round out Tchaikovsky's officially ordered works, but these are among Tchaikovsky's few obscurities and worth hearing only once or twice. However, listeners may feel compelled to play the 1812 Overture and the Slavonic March more frequently, because Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra pull out all the stops to make this SACD a sonic spectacular. Indeed, the cannonade and bells in 1812 are so impressive, one feels this piece should have been placed last, for nothing that follows it has its explosive energy. Mariinsky's reproduction is generally quite clear and focused, and the SACD format provides an enormous dynamic range and adequately captures the spacious acoustic.
AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Moscow, coronation cantata for mezzo-soprano, baritone, chorus & orchestra|