The Tempest/Tchaikovsky

April 11, 2014

tchaikovsky vox box




The Vox Music Group was known to classical fans as the budget label in the 70’s. If memory serves me correctly Tower and another local classical shop sold them at 2 for $5.00. They used orchestras, conductors, and soloists who were not as well known, their vinyl had noise issues, warpage, and other little quirks but they offered some material that was not often recorded. I probably had well over a 100 in my collection. Over 20 years ago they introduced many of their old recordings in Vox Box collections consisting of 2 and 3 CD’s at an attractive price. This set offers in addition to the Manfred some of his lesser known orchestral works. The Tempest recording fits into that category. It is based on the work of Shakespeare and was composed in a mere 11 days in 1873. First performed in December of 1873 at a Moscow Russian Musical Society concert conducted by Nicholai Rubinstein and was an instant success. While Tchaikovsky was on tour he often performed this work. The years have not kind to it and it is seldom performed. Richard Freed, the author of the liner notes offers a reason that it is far too similar in style to his popular “Romeo and Juliet.”

The twenty minute work is divided into three sections: storm, magic island/love theme, and the leaving of the island to the sea. The storm is as you would think a violent depiction of a ship at sea floundering with the wind blowing gale force and the ship beginning to sink. It begins with an andante heroic theme with the horns playing the melody. It is an introduction that segues into the storm sequence as the tempo picks up. One can hear the influence that Tchaikovsky must have had on a young Rimsky Korsakov. This plays out like a Wagner opera. The second section offers the love theme which is similar in orchestration and style to “Romeo and Juliet.” While not as memorable a theme it still is a good one and enhances the tone poem. The third section is a combination of the turmoil of the sea with the peace and tranquility of two couples in love who row off into the sunset.

The work is definitely one that would be nice to have in your collection. The performance and recording of the Bochum Symphony conducted by Othmar Maga is adequate. There are other recordings available.




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