TCHAIKOVSKY: Suite No. 3 in G; STRAVINSKY: Divertimento (Ballet Suite from The Fairy’s Kiss) – Russian National Orchestra/ Vladimir Jurowski – PentaTone Multichannel SACD PTC 5186 061, 64:02 ****:

If the Stravinsky work here had been credited as Tchaikovsky-Stravinsky, the pairing of these two works on the disc would have been more obvious. But although this suite from Stravinsky’s complete ballet The Fairy’s Kiss makes use of many different Tchaikovsky songs and piano pieces, the modern Russian composer transformed and molded them to his own unique musical style – to such an extent that the original composer doesn’t receive the title credit in the fashion of, say, Mussorgsky-Ravel.

The four movements from the ballet are titled Sinfonia, Swiss Dances, Scherzo and Pas de deux. The basis of the scenario was Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen. The music is a delight; much more Tchaikovsky (though a more modern, sophisticated Tchaikovsky) than Stravinsky. One authority feels that Stravinsky’s own highly-identifiable idiom is “concealed by a mask.”  Superb playing and surround sonics, though it makes me want to hear the complete ballet again.

Tchaikovsky wrote his four orchestral suites in the time between the writing of his Fourth and Fifth Symphonies. They were abstract works in which the composer experimented with features which he then used in his later symphonic works. It opens with a sad Elegie, moves on to a Valse mélancolique and a rather eerie Scherzo, before concluding with an extensive Theme and Variations which is longer than the other three movements put together.  Jurowski is Principal Guest Conductor of the Russian National Orchestra. The band’s string tone is rich and well-reproduced. Though the recording was made in a Moscow studio rather than a concert hall, there is complete freedom from  the overly-dry studio sound with tacked-on artificial reverb which was SOP in Soviet-era Russian recordings.

 – John Sunier