Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky:
Serenade for String Orchestra in C major op. 48
Serenade for String Orchestra in E major op. 22 (unabrigded version of the autograph)
The Festvial Strings Lucerne are currently experiencing a major boom on the CD market. Their Shostakovich recording, for example, which was released in May 2006 by OehmsClassics, received the highest praise.
“With Bernd Glemser and Reinhold Friedrich as soloists, the Festival Strings’ new CD provides interesting and extremely exciting listening.”
“This CD has become my gold standard for both of these works (String Quartet No. 8, Piano Concerto No. 1).”
On the Festival Strings’ latest CD, we hear two standard works for string ensembles. Here as in their other recordings, the Lucerne ensemble’s virtuosity, chamber ensemble abilities as well as the flexibility provided by its small size are decisive.
Achim Fiedler, born in Stuttgart, first studied to play the violin with Saschko Gawriloff in addition to studying chamber music with the Amadeus Quartet at the College for Music in Cologne. After receiving
a violin scholarship for the Guildhall School London he continued his education with studies in conducting with Franco Gallini
in Milan and Thomas Ungar in Stuttgart. This period was followed by an invitation to be Conducting Fellow in Tanglewood/USA. Fiedler did a master class with Seiji Ozawa there, soon after followed by assistant conducting positions with Bernard Haitink and Carlo Maria Giulini. Achim Fiedler was supported by the German Music Council from 1994 to 2001, received the Herbert von Karajan Scholarship in 1997 and was an award-winner in several international conducting competitions (among them a 1st prize in Cadaqués/Spain, in 1996).
Achim Fiedler conducts a number of orchestras such as the Sächsische Staats-kapelle Dresden, the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
of the NDR Hanover, the Vienna Chamber
Orchestra, the Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla, the Orquestra Simfónica de Barcelona e Nacional de Catalunya and the Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria. Achim Fiedler has acted as artistic director of the Lucerne Festival Strings since 1998.
Tchaikovsky and Dvorák’s
After our three-part series “Dialogue”, which was released by OehmsClassics,
it is a pleasure for us to record two 19th century masterpieces for string orchestra.
But does it make sense to produce yet another recording of this standard repertoire
– and in the traditional combination that can probably be found on any well-arranged
CD shelf? Hopefully so. At first, our relatively small string orchestration may seem to guard us from excessive ballast and ensure that we retain our chamber-music
ideal. But even though the comparison of these works remains traditional, it is still fascinating because the works could not be more different. Both take up the idea of the serenade, which originally began with a stylized entrance by the musicians. This first march is occasionally repeated at the end of the work as an exit-march for the musicians, giving such works a cyclical form as it were. Dvor?ák and Tchaikovsky use this framework in highly individual, one could even say brilliant manners – and with diametrically opposing methods.
affirmatively states the main theme in C Major, deriving it from the descending
major scale, and constantly intensifying
it at the beginning and end of the first movement as a ‘small’ framework, as well as at the close of the entire work, where it acts as a ‘large’ frame. Darker, questioning tones as well as crises in every movement can be discovered in inner parts of the works. Apropos entertainment – the light character of this serenade is often emphasized,
in the sense of questioning what an elegy is doing in a serenade. But the listener
might hear the middle section – an elegant
French waltz filled with anxiety – very differently upon learning that Tchaikovsky loved balls but felt very uneasy among others;
this ambivalence gives the waltz its fragile charm. Tchaikovsky himself mentioned
that he had tried to come as close as possible to his idol Mozart in the Serenade.
The first movement, entitled Pezzo in forma di sonatina, uses a form untypical for Mozart: a two-part reprise-form without development. On the other hand, this movement
has something Russian to it. Everyone is familiar with the little Russian Matroshka dolls – figures which contain smaller and smaller dolls inside. The form of Tchaikov-sky’s first movement imparts something of this naïve feeling: the large figure (the weighty introduction) contains two halves of the main part, both of which are even smaller and filigreed. When Tchaikovsky
incorporates two folk songs in his Finale (Tema russo), two of which he had already arranged for piano four hands (no. 28 A kak po lugu seljonomu in the introduction and no. 42 Pod jablonju selenoj in the main part), this is meant less as a Slavic counterpart to the western-oriented movements preceding
the Finale, but as a creative reference to his own roots as a child, and above all, to the traumatic experiences that permeate even such a lightweight work as the Serenade.
, on the other hand, is self-assured about expressing lyricism and sensitivity. He immediately finds the mood for his main theme (which calmly circles the E Major third) and wants to let it radiate. The first movement seems too short for this song, and thus the Trio in the Waltz takes up the gesture of the dying song, just as does the middle section of the Scherzo. In the song-like Larghetto, the measures leading back to the recapitulation refer to the first movement
(mm. 11–12), thus thematically linking the two movements. The main theme of the first movement (more precisely, its coda) enters as a framing device shortly before the work’s conclusion, bringing the lyrical sensibility of the first movement – possibly the entire serenade – back into focus. It might even continue to sound in all eternity,
if not for the intrusion of the strettos – the pure joy of music, the rhythmic vitality
of Slavic music. If we previously talked about lyricism and song, is it pure chance that Dvor?ák stirs up Wagner’s harmonies from the Tannhäuser Prelude after the first major climax in the Finale, right before the wonderful duet between the first violins and cellos, perhaps the only crisis in this work? Wagner’s Tristan chord can be perceived,
transposed, in the sixth measure of the Larghetto, amalgamated in late-romantic
harmonies from this orbit. Dvor?ák has overcome the Wagner crisis; in their serenades,
both composers on this recording, Dvor?ák und Tchaikovsky have found a way to creatively confront the German musical tradition.
For this recording, we decided to use the passages in the autograph that are found in the supplement to the complete edition: the heavenly A Major section in the Scherzo is thus 34 measures longer – with a wonderful
subito pp – and the syncopes in the first cello that until now suddenly popped up as of measure 170 finally have their (pre-)history.
In the Finale, Dvor?ák’s revision for the publisher was even more serious. The return
of the secondary theme in measure 287 has until now been perceived as a coda: the dotted rhythm intensifies constantly. But two formal parts follow: the quote from the first movement and the strettos. In contrast,
the secondary theme of the exposition,
starting in measure 86, always seemed short and somewhat odd due to its immediate
development character. A glance at the autograph immediately clears things up: Dvor?ák crossed out 79 (!) measures; the first 40 of these are almost identical to the recapitulation. This intensification was at least part of the original idea for the exposition’s
secondary theme. We no longer want to hear it any differently; neither do we wish to miss the heavenly length in the Trio of the Scherzo… – Why Dvor?ák made these cuts is puzzling, as is his carelessness in regard to articulation in the printed version of this work compared to the attention he gave it in the autograph. All this moved us to give the autograph precedence in many places.
Translation: Elizabeth Gahbler