August 10, 2004
Contact: Jeffrey James Arts Consulting
516-586-3433 or

TCHAIKOVSKY - Variations on a Rococo Theme, op. 33. Manfred Symphony, op. 58 - Vakhtang Jordania, cond; Dong-Oo Lee (vc); Russian Federal Orchestra - ANGELOK 9911 - (67:00)

This disc won't please those who believe that Tchaikovsky's music should sound as neurotic as the composer undoubtedly was. Jordania's Tchaikovsky, especially the Rococo Variations, is about the gentlest I know, and he has found an equally elegant partner in cellist Dong-Oo Lee. Part of the effect is from the slightly distant recording technique. Mostly, of course, it's the approach of Jordania and - in the Rococo Variations - of Lee that results in these lovely, sometimes understated, performances.

I first heard Tchaikovsky's op. 33 in the odd pairing of the intense Rostropovich with a patrician Karajan. Rostropovich dominated the record: he seemed to be hugging the microphone and produced a huffingly high-energy performance that sometimes put the orchestra not merely in the background, but in its place. Lee's performance is at another pole. He plays beautifully, even serenely. There are fewer extremes of dynamics and less radical adjustments of tempo than in the Karajan-Rostropovich.

This is a performance without mannerisms, but not without character, and that character includes an appealing tonal beauty and elegance of phrasing that seems closer to Fournier than to Rostropovich.

Jordania has also produced a lovely rendition of the Manfred Symphony. Even in the opening movement, Jordania insists on the pastoral as well as the stormy side of Tchaikovsky. At times in the middle movements I wished for a more dynamic sound, for a little more drama. That comes inevitably in the last movement, and in the powerful opening movement, with its striking writing for brass. For finally, though he may, as I believe, prefer the lyrical side of Tchaikovsky, Jordania allows the composer his moments of brashness, his statements for massed trumpets and the occasional gong played vigorously. He has mastered the sighing effects, the ebb and flow of Tchaikovsky's music, which he presents in a personal way that many listeners will find attractive.

Michael Ullman

Jeffrey James Arts Consulting
Jeffrey James,   President
45 Grant Ave.
Farmingdale, NY 11735
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