Evgeny Svetlanov

Tchaikovsky: Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture; Symphony No. 3

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Back before the fall of the Iron Curtain, Western orchestras sounded one way and Russian orchestras sounded, well, different. As this recording of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet fantasy overture and Symphony No. 3 with the State Academic Symphony Orchestra under Evgeny Svetlanov demonstrates, Russian orchestras had entirely different goals than Western orchestras. The winds were far more pungent -- try the fruity tone of the clarinets or the plangent tone of the bassoons -- the brass were far more assertive -- try the keening vibrato of the solo trumpet or the aggressive blast of the horns -- the strings were far more unrefined -- try the wide vibrato of the violins and the scrapping attack of the cellos -- and the whole ensemble was both more individualistic -- soloists are granted much more latitude -- and more homogenous -- the balances are much more blended. Under the strong but flexible direction of Svetlanov, the Russian musicians create a portrait of Tchaikovsky as a young composer that seems more realistic and more persuasive than many Western performances. There is real passion and drive in the overture, real structure and stature in the symphony, and real belief throughout that Tchaikovsky was a truly great composer who deserves to rank with Brahms and Dvorák in the late-Romantic pantheon. Though the sound is more than a tad harsh in tuttis, it nevertheless presents a convincing image of a real orchestra in a real place in real time.

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