“Tchaikovsky Project” recordings, spotlighting composer’s competing aesthetics

Posted on: September 5, 2019

“The music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky has always been hugely popular with the public,” writes Stuart Isacoff in last Wednesday’s (8/28) Wall Street Journal (subscription required). “Critical response was another matter. The composer was often caught between two worlds: His works embodied the technical mastery of the Western European tradition, but … they also plumbed the ‘passionate, almost crazy intensity’ of his Russian roots…. Tchaikovsky’s own writing had a sophisticated, European patina, yet he was often accused by critics of reveling in Russian gloominess and barbarism. Now conductor Semyon Bychkov, music director of the Czech Philharmonic, has recorded a seven-CD boxed set of Tchaikovsky’s works with an interpretive eye on those stylistic battles. ‘The Tchaikovsky Project,’ which includes the complete piano concertos with Kirill Gerstein [and] the complete symphonies … was recorded … in Prague…. The geographic location of the Czechs, Mr. Bychkov believes, enhances their understanding of the historical context. Some of the works performed here clearly reflect the opposing camps. [Tchaikovsky’s] roaring, tempestuous [Sixth Symphony], a final statement before his death, is filled with emotional turmoil…. Tchaikovsky might have been seen as artistically conflicted at times, but in the end, his deepest sentiment was Russian indeed.”

Posted September 5, 2019