Leonard Slatkin conducts Tchaikovsky Ballets
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There have been many recordings of the three great Tchaikovsky ballets by the same conductor, and Slatkin’s recordings typically get overlooked in any discussion of them. This is a pity, because his versions are uniformly superb, beautifully engineered, and wholly idiomatic. Is it because no one regards the Saint Louis Symphony as the major orchestra it is? Is it Slatkin himself, a splendid conductor who hasn’t ever gotten the respect he surely deserves based on the excellence of his discography? I don’t know and I don’t care. Now you can get all three ballets in this budget box, and even if you have other performances in your collection, you’d be foolish not to listen.
Each of these performances has outstanding features. The Nutcracker reveals Slatkin’s deft hand with Tchaikovsky’s most colorful score, and evokes a genuine fairytale atmosphere. The big transformation scene in act one really glitters, while the famous dances in act two have all the necessary energy and character. Sleeping Beauty, the greatest ballet of the three, if not necessarily the most popular, has plenty of the requisite drama and lyrical impetus plus that genuine, hard to define, balletic lilt, while Swan Lake simply has never been better done. Check out Slatkin’s handling of the finale, with its intelligent treatment of Tchaikovsky’s ridiculously overscored percussion parts (sound clip). Has the music ever sounded clearer and more honestly triumphant? I don’t think so. Get this.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Catalog Number: 88691920082
Composer: Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor: Leonard Slatkin
Orchestra/Ensemble: St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony Women's Chorus
Performer: Barbara Liberman, Frances Tietov, Jacques Israelievitch, John Sant'Ambrogio, Susan Slaughter