Gramophone Editor's Choice
Russian conductor Vladimir Jurowski gets most of his press from his association with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (and later, the Bavarian State Opera Orchestra), but he has also served since 2011 as chief conductor of the cumbersomely named State Academic Symphony of Russia "Evgeny Svetlanov" and knows its players well. That bodes well for this entry in the crowded marketplace of recordings of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, and indeed everyone involved delivers handsomely. For one thing, the recording represents a fine confluence of the talents of musicians and engineers; the precise instrumental work of the orchestra is matched by clean transparency from the audiophile PentaTone label, working (at two sessions, a year apart, it should be noted) at Moscow's Rachmaninov Hall. And it's hard to avoid the feeling that this music is Jurowski's bread and butter, for all his forays into Western music. He is brisk but elegant, never too fast, and making you feel like he's rushing you through the big tunes (all of which are here in this 1877 original version, just in a slightly different order from what you may be used to). And he seems to have singlehandedly brought the brasses of the ensemble formerly known as the USSR State Symphony Orchestra up to the international A-list. Sample the sequence of ethnic dances in Act 3 for numerous demonstrations of how he gets the elusive clean but gentle sound out of his brasses. Everything's just delightful, down to the packaging of the CD version, which includes, charmingly, a foldable swan. Highly recommended.