Tchaikovsky: Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades)

Reviewed on Fri 20 Nov, 2015

Jansons is on top form, inking in the music’s incremental darkening with painterly aplomb. Recorded live in concert (complete with ambient noises) his alert Bavarian forces serve him impeccably well, keenly attuned to gradations of emotion and drama.

It’s been a long wait since his 2007 Sony coupling of the First Piano Concerto and Fourth Symphony for Mariss Jansons to return to Tchaikovsky on disc. Even longer since his recommendable mid-1980s symphony survey on Chandos. Here, in the company of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra he has led as chief conductor since 2003, he is on top form, inking in the music’s incremental darkening with painterly aplomb. Recorded live in concert (complete with ambient noises) his alert Bavarian forces serve him impeccably well, keenly attuned to gradations of emotion and drama. Less poetic and persuasive are some of the individual contributions. Misha Didyk’s leonine and lowering Herman – his pent-up passion and menace vividly etched – and Tatiana Serjan’s full-of-feeling Lisa are by far the standout vocal performances. Larissa Diadkova’s Countess and the Yeletsky of Alexey Markov have their moments but sound idiomatically insecure. Even so, a powerful reading full of Tchaikovskian emotion and drama.
–Michael Quinn