Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture – Symphony N° 5 in E minor, opus 64
The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, David Edelson (Concertmaster), David Bernard (Conductor)
Recording: All Saints Church, New York City (May and October 2013) – 68’06
Park Avenue Chamber Symphony # PACSNAXOS0028 – Booklet in English
Passion in anyone’s particular profession can pay great dividends, and this is evidently the case with David Bernard. Having held numerous posts in and around the greater New York City metropolitan area, Mr. Bernard then went on to establish The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony (PACS) in 1999. Since that time, he has garnered numerous awards and accolades, having performed in over 20 countries. This is the most recent recording featuring two of Tchaikovsky heavy-hitter compositions that The PACS translates in colorful fashion.
We begin with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s first masterpiece, the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture, with its opening broody overtones and richly layered solemnity. Maestro Bernard peels back the notes by shaking his orchestra into a mighty fervor and striking with intensity that culminates into the familiar prickly, pinnacled crescendo. It is here the strings are particularly well synchronized; the harp, bridging the two restless sections, shimmers like luminescence of crystal glassware.
Mr. Bernard commands the “Love Theme” segment with bountiful legatos despite a few hiccups with the violins. Unfortunately in the tutti measures there’s a bit of a metallic echo emanating from the percussion department (specifically cymbals), perhaps the resultant found within the walls of the venue. It makes the recording sound tinny, and it detracts from creating full-bodied Shakespearean tempestuousness.
Where the fireworks vibrantly exist, however, is in the ensuing Symphony No° 5. David Bernard brings together all elements of orchestral virtuosity throughout the score. The opening “Andante – Allegro con anima” pulsates with energy and riveting strength; the fugato tosses and tussles with convincing fussiness. The first horn in the subsequent “Andante cantabile” is warm, soft and formed.
Within the Symphony’s third movement Tchaikovsky’s transitioning hemiola technique creates a bit of teasing frivolity that’s especially well highlighted under Mr. Bernard’s direction. In the conclusive “Finale” we find the brass in their finest, polished glory; violins are patriotically perky and flounced in the coda. The sound is well balanced, captivating and breathless.
David Bernard and The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony do a very respectable job in musically extruding the inner turmoil vaulted within Tchaikovsky’s psyche.