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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Vladimir Jurowski | The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

Pique Dame

  • Type CD
  • Label Helicon Classics
  • UPC 7293627967228
  • Catalog number HEL02 9672
  • Release date 06 April 2018
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About the album

“I have been writing this opera with unbelievable passion and enthusiasm, I have vividly experienced all the sufferings and emotions of the story (to such an extent that at some stage I feared that the ghost of the Queen of Spades might make an appearance) and I hope that all my raptures, excitements and enthusiasms will find a response in the hearts of responsive listeners.” This is quintessential Tchaikovsky: highly emotional, pouring out his soul into his music as well as his writing, extreme in his empathy whether it is rapture or terror, sincere and genuine. It’s hard to believe that just two years before that, he had, in fact, turned up his nose at the subject! In 1888, his beloved brother Modest had been asked to prepare a libretto based on Pushkin’s Pique Dame for another composer, Klenovsky. At this stage, Tchaikovsky wrote, apparently with relief: “I have no regrets at all that I am not going to write Pique Dame. I will write another opera only if a subject crops up which is capable of firing my imagination. Something like Pique Dame does not move me and would just have come out any old how.”

Such a change of heart did not come, though without the influence of other people. Ivan Vsevolozhsky, who was the Director of the Imperial Theatres and had been a very positive force in promoting some of Tchaikovsky’s ballets, turned to Pyotr Ilyich when Klenovsky exited the project in late 1889. At that stage, Tchaikovsky discovered that he actually liked his brother’s libretto very much and from that moment on took an active part in shaping and refining it in the process of composing the opera. As soon as his creative fires were lit and as soon as he was given a tight deadline (about half a year later, so that the opera could be mounted in the following season), Tchaikovsky fully committed to it and rushed off to Florence for peace, quiet and uninterrupted work. Forty four days later, he finished sketching the entire opera, with the orchestrated score ready in another couple of months. Ironically, this speed raised some eyebrows and he found himself writing to his brother about some people’s grumbling: “How can they not understand that speed of working is one of my fundamental characteristics; I can’t write in any other way except quickly. But because it was written fast, it doesn’t mean it is a carelessly written opera. The secret is to write with love. And I certainly wrote The Queen of Spades with love. Lord, how I wept yesterday when poor Hermann sang his last gasp! Meanwhile, I am firmly convinced that Pique Dame is a good, but more importantly, a very original work.”

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