Pearson’s first sentence catches his readers’ attention. He clearly states his assessment of the recording, and leads his audience to wonder how Tchaikovsky is ‘frequently misunderstood’ (Pearson, 2011). However, the first paragraph fails to address this question; also, it is somewhat opinionated in tone and is poorly written (Pearson, 2011). It thereby risks losing the audience’s attention.
The review omits much valuable information about the recording. Pearson comments on the duo’s performances of Sérénade Mélancolique, Valse-Scherzo, Andante funebre, and the first movement of Souvenir d’un lieu cher (Pearson, 2011). However, he completely ignores the two remaining movements of Souvenir, as well as the other works featured on this CD (Koob, 2011). His descriptions of the duo’s playing are subjective and imprecise. Also, he says little about the performers’ success (or otherwise) in connecting and communicating with their audience (Pearson, 2011). The reader is left to wonder what message—if any—the performance conveyed.
Pearson does not explain the structure of the works, although that would help readers who are unfamiliar with the compositions. He fails to give the works any meaningful context, ignoring their historical background and their place within Tchaikovsky’s œuvre. Even the title of Souvenir is left untranslated (Pearson, 2011).
In contrast, John Warrack’s review of the same album explains that the title of Souvenir refers to a ‘beloved place’—the home of Tchaikovsky’s patron von Meck. Souvenir’s first movement began as a movement of the Violin Concerto, while Andante funebre is arranged from a string quartet. Warrack explains that Tchaikovsky wrote Andante funebre in memory of the violinist Ferdinand Laub, who had helped to premiere Tchaikovsky’s early quartets (Warrack, Gramophone, accessed 2017). Such information provides the readers with a better understanding of the material and its context.
Pearson gives his readers little information about Rozhdestvensky’s performance background, omitting the fact that he has recorded music by other the Russian composers. About Marfurt’s background he says nothing. However, he does include facts whose relevance is unclear: he states that Tchaikovsky influenced Roslavets, and that his favourite composer was Mozart (Pearson, 2011).
This review did not draw me into internal conversation. I believe that Pearson’s readers could have learnt just as much about the music from the recording itself, and that they will find Pearson’s misuse of language irritating. Pearson omits or misspells words and uses redundant phrases such as ‘crystal clear clarity’ and ‘effortless ease’ (Pearson, 2011). Some of his sentences are structured awkwardly; for instance, he writes ‘is able to achieve’ for ‘achieves’ (Pearson, 2011).
His tone is unsuitably informal. He describes how Rozhdestvensky ‘pulls off the virtuosic passages’ and uses appropriate ‘push and pull in tempo,’ and how the duo ‘let each musical gesture just hang out in the open’ (Pearson, 2011). Some of his phrases, such as ‘lyricism dripping with expression,’ are inappropriately subjective, while some sentences (such as the last in paragraph 4) are too vague (Pearson, 2011).
In this review, Pearson states his own opinions and does not always justify them (an example is the beginning of paragraph 6). He also generalizes: Rozhdestvensky’s performance ‘has those qualities that seem to come best from Russian violinists,’ while Valse-Scherzo has ‘just the right [amount] of push and pull in tempo that is too often left out of studio recordings’ (Pearson, 2011). Pearson’s tone is often quite negative. Particularly noteworthy is the argumentative, emotional language in paragraph 6 (Pearson, 2011).
The only information given to describe Pearson’s authority to review this album is the fact that he is a saxophonist (Pearson, 2011). The reader is not told that Pearson studied classical music, even though this fact has more relevance (Eastern School, accessed 2017).
- Eastern School of Music, Art and Dance. ‘David Pearson: Saxophone.’ Accessed March 8, 2017. http://easternschool.org/david-pearson/.
- Koob, Lindsay. Liner notes. Tchaikovsky: Complete Works for Violin and Piano. Sasha Rozhdestvensky (violin) and Josiane Marfurt (piano). Naxos DE 3413. 2011, compact disc.
- Pearson, David. ‘Delos’ Release of Tchaikovsky’s Complete Works for Violin and Piano Delivers.’ I Care If You Listen. November 28, 2011. Accessed March 8, 2017. https://www.icareifyoulisten.com/2011/11/delos%E2%80%99-release-of-tchaikovsky%E2%80%99s-complete-works-for-violin-and-piano-delivers/.
- Warrack, John. ‘Tchaikovsky: Complete Works for Violin and Piano; The Conductor’s Son in Original and Arranged Tchaikovsky.’ Gramophone: The World’s Best Classical Music Reviews. Accessed March 8, 2017. https://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/tchaikovsky-complete-wks-for-violin-piano.
Note: Photograph by Lauren Giddy.