Pablo Heras-Casado conducts Tchaikovsky

Young Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado gets around. He's the music director of the orchestra on this new recording of Tchaikovsky, but it's as a guest conductor where Heras-Casado is making his mark. He's omnipresent with the great orchestras of London, Vienna and Berlin. And while the Orchestra of St Luke's is a fine group, I can't help thinking that the next major opening will be his for the choosing. 

The Orchestra of St. Luke's is a major force in New York's orchestral scene and has made some wonderful recordings -- Charlie Mac's Haydn symphonies with them on Telarc are superb. It's nice to hear them stretching their legs on repertoire that maximizes the size of the orchestra. The orchestra is made up of the best freelancers in the city, a city with a massive pool of outstanding players. 

Heras-Casado is also getting around the recording studio. Mendelssohn with Bavarian Radio forces and the Freiburg Barokorchester and as the most wonderful accompanist in Schumann Concertos.  The recording quality he receives from Harmonia Mundi engineers in many different venues is uniformly excellent. 

He recently signed a contract extension with St. Luke's. Nothing like a recording contract to snag an up and coming conductor. 

This first album from the team must be considered a success. 

Two of Tchaikovsky's early gems are included, Symphony No.1 (Winter Dreams) Op. 13 and The Tempest, Op. 18. 

Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke's. Photo credit: New York Times. 

Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Orchestra of St. Luke's. Photo credit: New York Times. 

Both works receive excellent performances, with characterful solos and splendid ensemble work. At times, the heavy/loud orchestration in The Tempest overwhelms the smaller forces of St. Luke's. But this is a small criticism of an otherwise fine performance. In fact, some of Tchaikovsky's typical filigree woodwind work of both the symphony and The Tempest are among the best. 

The best recordings I know are Gergiev/LSO/LSO LIve on digital and Maazel/VPO/Decca on LP. Both these recordings are masterpieces of playing and interpretation. Heras-Casado and his New York orchestra don't quite match the brilliance of the LSO and Vienna Phil firing on all cylinders.

Heras-Casado navigates both works beautifully -- the drama of The Tempest is captured by the brilliant recording. Audiophile quality all around. And the wonderful melodies of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 1 are conjured with magic. What a beautiful work this is. Heras-Casado's performance reminds me of an early Boston/DG with Tilson-Thomas. All youth and vigour. The older guard of Gergiev and Maazel bring a little more depth and mystery but you may not need it. As such, both youngsters will do just fine. Recommended. 

Release Date: November 4, 2016

harmonia mundi

Playing time: 68:18