Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 1 in G minor, Op 13 (Winter Dreams); The Tempest, Op 18

Reviewed on Mon 27 Feb, 2017

In the First Symphony textures and counterpoint are clarified to frequently invigorating effect, and the Spaniard's chosen tempi are as judicious as they are unexaggerated.

Here's a distinctive take on early Tchaikovsky from Granada-born Pablo Heras-Casado at the helm of his bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Orchestra of St Luke's. In the First Symphony textures and counterpoint are clarified to frequently invigorating effect, and the Spaniard's chosen tempi are as judicious as they are unexaggerated. Both the first movement's sublime second subject and trio section's glorious waltz theme distill a blissful innocence but perhaps rather less in the way of heartwarming, songful glow – a criticism I'd level at Heras-Casado's performance as a whole, for all its obvious care, thrusting energy and canny intelligence. Ultimately, I do find the music-making just a little detached and crave the Russian tang and soulfulness of a Svetlanov, Rostropovich or Jurowski. Heras-Casado's way with the 1873 symphonic fantasia after Shakespeare's The Tempest is similarly lean and purposeful, though not as atmospheric as some rivals (Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra on DG are stupendous in this underrated canvas). Harmonia Mundi's close-set recording is undeniably vivid, if not entirely free of a slightly synthetic hollowness. Still, anyone who fancies a refreshingly different slant on this appealing repertoire needn't hold back.
–Andrew Achenbach