Antonio Pappano

Tchaikovsky: Overtures & Fantasies

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Call it "Tchaikovsky -- Overtures & Fantasies" and you leave out the Waltz and Polonaise from Eugene Onegin, works that are neither overtures nor fantasies, but dances excerpted from an opera. Call it "Tchaikovsky's Greatest Hits" and you include "Francesca da Rimini -- symphonic fantasia after Dante," a work that is neither great nor a hit but a long, slow visit to the second circle of hell. But whatever you call it, you'd have to call this 2006 EMI disc by Antonio Pappano conducting the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia singularly unsuccessful. Pappano is an adept technician -- which he'd have to be to hold together the sprawling 1812 Overture -- and a decent interpreter -- which he'd have to be to breathe life into the played-to-death Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture -- but he doesn't seem to have any particular feel for the music. His Francesca da Rimini is dull -- check out the sluggish storm music and flaccid love music -- while his Romeo and Juliet is discursive -- check out the sluggish fight music and torpid love music. His Waltz and Polonaise from Eugene Onegin with the Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia are heavy and sloppy with far too much stress on the downbeat, while his 1812 with the Banda Musicale della Polizia di Stato is loud and soupy with far too much emphasis on the brass and percussion in the climax. Recorded in dim and distant sound by EMI in the Sala Santa Cecilia in the Parco della Musica in Roma, this disc does no service for anyone involved.

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