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CD Review

Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky

  • Fantasy Overture "Hamlet"
  • Symphony #5, Op. 64
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra/Carlos Païta
Lodia Païta Edition CP802 Live Recordings 60:08
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Although Albany Music continues to provide cult collectors access to Carlos Païta's limited discography, I am becoming increasingly wary of recommending him to the general public. Although an occasionally inspired conductor, I have found that his choice of ensembles, as well as his uneven results in the repertoire he supposedly excelled in, has dimmed my enthusiasm considerably. Still, I will concede that his work in Russia, especially live, finds him in generally excellent form. Unfortunately, while this is excellent, competition is simply too stiff to make finding this disc a top priority.

The "Fantasy Overture" that is Hamlet is too rarely heard. Compared to the 1812 or Romeo and Juliet, it is short on tunes but never on the composer's signature style. This is a truly thrilling reading that makes a fine opening to the disc. In terms of orchestral execution, this is a coarser take, akin to Bernstein in New York, but not coming anywhere close to Muti's gorgeous Philadelphia reading. The same observation applies to the Symphony #5. While I appreciate the considerable energy that the maestro brings to the proceedings, I am less convinced everywhere else. The playing is lackluster (tonally speaking, anyways; the overall picture is quite exciting). Furthermore, Païta – never the most subtle or lyrically inclined – never really backs up the energy with anything interpretively interesting. This is a Russian pick-up band driving the music hard, clearly galvanized by the live setting.

As a collector, you always hope that issues long out-of-print are hidden treasures. Especially with a cult conductor like Païta, elusive and enigmatic, you hope that the artist brings something to the table that nobody else quite does. But as I continue to weed through my collection – as all collectors must, for the sanity of friends and family – I am increasingly finding that Païta fails to make the cut. His inability to secure top ensembles, combined with a certain crudeness (or at the very least, lack of polish) undermines his work as a conductor and largely eliminates him from contention in most works. While a few discs have been solid (the Brahms' #1 in particular) few have been exemplary. This is another also-ran, nonetheless available from Albany Music Distributors.

Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman