Fabien Sevitzky, Vol. 2 = GLAZUNOV: Suite “From the Middle Ages,”; TCHAIKOVSKY: Waltz from Evgeny Onegin; Symphony No. 1 in G Minor “Winter Reveries” – Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra/Fabien Sevitzky – Historic-Recordings

by | Feb 4, 2010 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

Fabien Sevitzky, Vol. 2 = GLAZUNOV: Suite “From the Middle Ages,” Op. 79; TCHAIKOVSKY: Waltz from Evgeny Onegin, Op. 24; Symphony No. 1 in G  Minor, Op. 13 “Winter Reveries” – Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra/Fabien Sevitzky

Historic-Recordings HRCD00039, 69:00 [www.historic-recordings.co.uk] ****:


The second installment from Britain’s Historic-Recordings devoted to Fabien Sevitzky (1893-1967), the gifted nephew of the legendary Serge Koussevitzky, opens with a much-coveted restoration of a recording once available on the RCA Bluebird label, the E Major Suite (1902) of Alexandre Glazunov, From the Middle Ages, recorded 8-9 February 1949.  In four vigorous, colorful movements, the suite exudes a sense of pageantry and the long ago and far-away. Prelude carries several Wagnerian impulses that we will hear again in the final section, The Crusaders. A tinge of Rimsky-Korsakov’s folk mysticism pervades the piece as well, as modal harmonies occasionally chant a piece of liturgy or doxology. The Scherzo quite tingles the senses, a masterful bit of orchestration that rivals oriental color elements in Liadov. The Troubadour’s Serenade takes up a motif Glazunov had utilized in his Op. 20, but here it expands in sonic splendor. The last movement, The Crusaders, proves rather meandering and “effective,” with chorales and marches mixed rhapsodically, but the Glazunov penchant for large canvasses provides the Indianapolis Symphony plenty of opportunity for resplendent fortissimos and hurtling professions of faith.

The dependable “lollipop” (Beecham’s phrase), Tchaikovsky’s Waltz from Evgeny Onegin (rec. date unknown, but c. 1948), enjoys light airy resonance, thoroughly idiomatic to the score. A sumptuous ballroom dance, the scale of the piece replaces much of the ballet that must accompany French Grand Opera. The flute and Indianapolis strings converge most delightfully, the transparency of tone never succumbing to sentimental bathos. The trumpet work for the final pages quite carries us to the Imperial Court, temporarily forgetting the painful tragedy of the opera’s principals.

Tchaikovsky’s First Symphony (1866; rev. 1874) bears the subtitle “Winter Daydreams” and perhaps communicates some of the composer’s own doubts as to his fecundity for original composition. Sevitzky’s recording (19 March 1946) certainly spearheaded the contemporary rediscovery of this often overlooked work, whose capacity for fine melodies should be noted, especially in the exalted second movement, Adagio. Tchaikovsky’s insecurity as purveyor of the Great “German Tradition” in symphonic writing often compensates by way of long polyphonic passages, and the first movement development makes a case in point. The delicacy of the scoring, however, already points to the later ballets, and The Nutcracker’s snow-laden magical scenes loom rather nigh. The Adagio, in fact, borrows aspects of both the youthful overture The Storm and harmonic moments from the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy. The wonderful scoring for oboe, answered by bassoon and flute, proves the soul of the Tchaikovsky style. Composed first, the C-sharp Minor Scherzo reworks pages from a discarded piano sonata. Its middle section illustrates Tchaikovsky’s fondness for Mendelssohn, while its trio provides this master of the waltz his first triumph in the form. Another ponderous fugue besets the Finale, but the energy and natural urge to melody sustain the piece in spite of Tchaikovsky’s inexperience at ending large scores. “A sin of my sweet youth,” Tchaikovsky called this lovely symphony, and Sevitzky and his players have “given us his sin again,” to paraphrase Juliet. Recommended as some of the best Tchaikovsky you will hear this year.

–Gary Lemco

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