Thursday, June 3, 2010

CD Odyssey Disc 132: Tchaikovsky

It has been almost a year since I rolled another classical album. Hardly shocking - I probably have ten total, or about 1% of the collection.

Disc 132 is...Tchaikovsky Box Set Disc 2 (of 5)
Artist: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Year of Release: 1980 and 1965, but music from 1840-1893

What’s Up With The Cover?: I didn't post the cover - it is just a boring graphic with "The Tchaikovsky Box" written on the front. Instead, let's take a second look at Pyotr in all his grandeur. That is a fine fitting suit you're wearing, Pyotr - I wonder how long you had to sit there until the image was captured...

How I Came To Know It: I explained this when I reviewed volume I back at Disc 9, but since you're here and not there - I was expanding my horizons in university back in 1989 when I got this box set on the cheap. I remember wanting it because it was mostly complete symphonies, rather than those cheapy deals you can get where they just sample parts out.

How It Stacks Up: It is a boxed set - not sure how that can really stack up. I will say that over the years I've listen to this volume a bit more than the other four.

Rating: 4 stars

I won't get too much into the nature of Tchaikovsky's music, since I covered as much as I know back in my first review of him. I'll just sum up - I think he is super-heavy for a 19th century dude, and he's my favourite classical composer.

This particular album came at a bad time - it is hard to hear on the highway with the top down, and today was the first sunny day in about two weeks, so I desperately wanted the top down.

I compromised, and left it up for the first half of my drive, then once I got into town and slowed down, I took it down. Classical music is awesome when tooling about in a convertible. I even had on a suit and a little British driving cap. I imagine I looked like quite the pretentious twit. I should have waved and shouted 'toodles!' as I left each stop light. Another lost opportunity...

This particular album is funny for me. It is like a record of two halves. The first two pieces are stand alone numbers, each about fifteen minutes in length (Capriccio Italien Op. 45, and "1812" Overture Op. 49). I really dig both of these, and 1812 Overture has long been one of my favourite classical pieces - no amount of overuse in film and TV will alter my love for this blast of pomp and bombast.

As a kid I used to dig that the song was accompanied by cannon shot at the end, fired far away, but calculated to be in time with the music. That is very cool. Of course, when you are eleven any song that has frickin' cannons in it is cool by default. Kind of like the car crash at the beginning of Kiss' "Detroit Rock City" or the fighter pilot banter at the beginning of Prism's "Armaggedon". I was eleven or so for that Prism song, too. Man, there is a lot of cool stuff out there when you're eleven.

Anyway, back to Tchaikovsky. The major piece on the album is "Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64". As usual four movements, yadda yadda yadda. This is an amazing composition (we are talking about one of the all-time greats here) but for some reason left me a little unsatisfied. It starts out all right, but it doesn't have the same rousing ending that I loved on "Serenade in C Major" from Vol. 1...I think - I'm a little shaky on this classical music thing.

Or maybe it is just that "Capriccio Italien" and "1812 Overture" are simply too awesome by comparison (they are the reason I played vol II all the time). Or maybe it is just that after a couple of fifteen minute 'pop hits' my 20th century ear doesn't have the patience to delve into something more complicated.

Who knows - it was fun, and Pyotr can party, so this album still earns 4 suggestive cello placements out of 5.

Best tracks: Capriccio Italien, Op. 45, '1812' Overture, Op. 49

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