London Philharmonic Orchestra/ Jurowski, Royal Festival Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

How interesting that Stravinsky should have been the first point of reference in "Revealing Tchaikovsky", the London Philharmonic Orchestra's intriguing two-week perspective on the composer.

It was Stravinsky who lavishly paid tribute to his Russian predecessor's precious gift for melody, even going so far as to celebrate it in his ballet on Tchaikovsky themes, The Fairy's Kiss - the opening work of this series. But I've no doubt he knew, too, what Tchaikovsky's precious gift might cost him. Tchaikovsky, the melodist, has consistently upstaged Tchaikovsky, the craftsman; immensely popular he may be, but immensely misunderstood and underrated, too.



Vladimir Jurowski is about to set the record straight. He made elegant points of comparison and contrast between Stravinsky's ballet and Tchaikovsky's First Symphony "Winter Daydreams". Indeed The Fairy's Kiss might easily have been imagined as one of those daydreams. Its woodwind voices have the first word, exactly as they do in the Tchaikovsky symphony - but these are coarser, folksier, voices. Throughout the score - beautifully pointed by the LPO wind choir and especially impressive horns - they created in sound terms a kind of cubist take on Tchaikovsky's tunes. It was like listening to one of his ballet's refracted through Stravinsky's oblique musical imagination. Only he could have imagined a dreamy solo string quartet in alternation with a lumpen country dance. In the transfixing closing scene he even let his heart rule his head.



Tchaikovsky always led with his heart - but Jurowski's fastidious and loving attention to detail in the First Symphony displayed its classical credentials in ways that it rarely does. It's interesting how, technically speaking, the odd frayed end or dropped stitch matters so little in the context of a Jurowski performance. This one was on the money from start to finish, its disciplined and wonderfully heard counterpoint liberating not constraining the melodic invention. And is there a more glorious manifestation of that than the seamless slow movement, starting as it does in misty contemplation before the theme - in solo oboe with divine intervention from flute and bassoon - begins its winter journey to an apotheosis is burgeoning horns. A simple idea so richly ennobled. Jurowski even made a real fist of the finale, its brooding introduction tellingly mirrored in the expectant, almost Brucknerian, slow burn to the coda. If anyone can "reveal" the real Tchaikovsky, this man can.

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