Thursday, December 22, 2016
Why I do not hate Tchaikovsky
Pierre Boulez once famously declared:"I hate Tchaikovsky and I will not conduct him... but if the audience wants him, it can have him". But much that I admire Boulez I have to disagree with him this time. There are many reasons why I do not hate Tchaikovsky, and Warner's new reissue of André Previn's 1970s recordings of the three great ballets is one of them. Tchaikovsky's ballets fit André Previn's style of music making like a glove, the recordings were made in the mellifluous acoustics of the Kingsway Hall (Nutcracker and Swan Lake) and Abbey Road Studio 1 (Sleeping Beauty) by the legendary EMI production team of Christopher Bishop and Christopher Parker, and the sound on these latest CD transfers simply confirms that as technology has advanced, so recorded sound quality has gone backwards.
When Previn's Sleeping Beauty was first transferred to CD by EMI two numbers were cut so that it would fit onto 2 CDs. Somebody at Warner Classics cares, because these cuts have been reinstated and the ballet is now spread over 3 CDs, and fortuitously the 7 CD format means there are no side breaks in any of three ballets' acts. At the time the recordings were first issued EMI's artwork creation came under my management, and it is pleasing that the evocative jugendstil-style artwork by the Native American artist Dick Ellescas for the original LPs of the ballets has been retained, although he is not credited. The icing on this Christmas cake are the violin solos in the first act of Swan Lake which are played by Ida Haendel, who was drafted in at short notice as substitute for the nominated LSO soloist.
Warner Classics' acquisition of the EMI catalogue in 2013 was viewed cynically by many commentators, however this budget reissue is in a different class to the usual corporate back catalogue whoring. It is also worth noting that the 20 CD box of Zuzana Růžičková playing J.S. Bach: The Complete Keyboard Works, a release that has been lavishly praised by one of Warner's universal (Universal?) naysayers, comes from the company's Erato sub-label. Thank you Warner Classics for bringing some much-needed light into a very dark 2016 and for proving the experts wrong. Best wishes for the festive season go to all my readers.
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