Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer: Lyubov Sokolova – mezzo-soprano, Alexey Markov – baritone
Orchestra: Mariinsky Orchestra & Chorus
Conductor: Valery Gergiev
Number of Discs: 1 SACD-R
Bit Depth: 64(2.8 MHz/1 Bit)
Number of channels: 5.0, 2.0
Size: 3.47 GB
Scan: yes (PDF)
Valery Gergiev – Mariinsky Orchestra & Chorus
01. 1812 Festival Overture / Торжественная увертюра “1812 год”, Op.49
Кантата “Москва” / Moscow Cantata:
02. i. Интродукция и хор / Introduction and Chorus: Andante religioso
03. ii. Ариозо / Arioso: Moderato con moto
04. iii. Хор / Chorus: Allegro
05. iv. Монолог и хор / Monologue and chorus: Moderato – Largo
06. v. Ариозр / Arioso: Andante molto sostenuto
07. vi. Финал / Finale: Moderato con moto
08. Славянский марш / Slavonic March (“Marche Slave”), Op.31
09. Торжественный коронационный марш / Festival Coronation March
10. Торжественная увертюра на датский гимн / Festival Overture on the Danish National Anthem, Op.15
The 5 works by Tchaikovsky on this CD form a cohesive whole. They were written to order. There is nothing shameful about this for the creative spirit. The majority of professional composers used to accept commissioned work, & still do. An order means that there is demand for the work, it is financially beneficial & above all – or maybe, most importantly – having a deadline disciplines the creative urge & stimulates inspiration. But in Russia in Tchaikovsky’s time, it was quite unusual for work to be commissioned (even for the members of the ‘Mighty Handful’ such as Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov & Balakirev) since many composers, even those well-known, had ‘amateur’ status. In this & in other ways, Tchaikovsky was the 1st ‘professional’ Russian composer. A new generation of composers (Stravinsky, Prokofiev) followed in his footsteps; for them, commissions were the norm.
Tchaikovsky, however, usually found working to order irksome but, being a professional, he produced music of the highest quality. He accepted commissions & the result was inspired. The orders were for official purposes. Tchaikovsky wrote for official & public events. He was an official composer from early in his career, on call whenever there was a need for music for state or social occasions. His compositions were well-crafted, accessible & attractive, capturing the mood of his fellow Russians.
Tchaikovsky is most evidently (& gloriously) Tchaikovsky in the Moscow Cantata. A vintage melody turns the 1st page of Russian history, illuminating it in that inimitable Tchaikovsky way. The baritone monologue in praise of Moscow culminates in a marvellously stirring idea & in the 2nd mezzo-soprano arioso honouring the women of Russian we find a heroine worthy of any Tchaikovsky opera. No doubt about it, Tchaikovsky had a gift for personalising even his most official duties, The dutiful was not really in his vocabulary.
The occasional or commemorative compositions of the great composers often have historical significance, especially when they are associated with royalty & 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 & achieved some success, despite the fact that he usually discounted them as hack work & felt embarrassed by their bombast & shallowness. The self-critical composer was wrong about the worth of 2 of his masterpieces, the 1812 Festival Overture, Op. 49, & the Slavonic March, Op. 31, for both are among his most played works & widely loved for their bold orchestration, abundant tunefulness, & vivid depictions of military struggles & 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, & 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 & worth hearing only once or twice. However, listeners may feel compelled to play the 1812 Overture & the Slavonic March more frequently, because Gergiev & the Mariinsky Orchestra pull out all the stops to make this SACD a sonic spectacular. Indeed, the cannonade & 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 & focused, & the SACD format provides an enormous dynamic range & adequately captures the spacious acoustic.