…If old timer stereo buffs still hold to the iron-handed Mravinsky or the leather-gloved Abbado, even they will have to admit that only Jansons of digital recordings comes close to Gatti in making the case for Tchaikovsky's Fourth as a masterful symphony. Harmonia Mundi's English-based recorded sound is just as clear and bright as its French- or American-based recorded sound, but also warmer and lusher and more vivid.
…Tchaikovsky's orchestration is brilliant in Gatti's lucid and finely gauged readings, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra offers great depth of sound and vivid timbral distinctions. Is the restoration Earth-shattering? Perhaps not to the extent that Baroque works sound radically changed in authentic re-creations. With Tchaikovsky, the differences are subtle and may be less obvious to the untrained ear. Even so, these are refreshing alternatives to the commonplace performances of the past, and Gatti's reappraisal of these warhorses opens a new area for debate.
Alt three performances convey an unfailing sense of dramatic imperative; all three display a suppleness of phrasing that comes from working with voices … In the Fourth Symphony, I am entirely sure that Pappano and his orchestra have crossed that indefinable threshold to achieve something exceptional. Gramophone
Swan Lake was the first of Tchaikovsky's three great ballets– works which added a new level of depth and sophistication to what had been a purely superficial art form. Today the music is so well-known and popular that it's impossible to comprehend the difficulties the composer experienced at early performances. Audiences found the music "too symphonic," and the dancers were put off by the prominence given to the orchestra which, they felt, distracted ballet fans from the action on stage. Of course, all of these supposed "defects" are precisely what we admire about the music today, and this elegant but exciting performance reveals the music in all of its glory.
Paavo Järvi’s remarkably fresh-sounding Tchaikovsky Pathétique emphasizes the music’s lyricism and singing line, with flowing tempos and unforced, natural phrasing throughout. Accordingly the strings predominate in this performance, and the Cincinnati players make beautiful sounds, especially in the outer movements. Järvi treats the first movement’s “big tune” as a love song that grows more impassioned with each appearance. On the other hand he leads a quite angry development section, with biting brass ratcheting up the tension. The second movement goes at a lively, dancing pace, while Järvi’s quick-stepping third-movement march generates real excitement in its second-half, with brilliant playing by the Cincinnati brass.
The last three symphonies remain for many listeners the ultimate expression of musical romanticism. Their gorgeous tunes, luscious orchestration, and huge emotional range tempt many interpreters to extremes of musical excess– but not Igor Markevitch. These brilliantly played, exceptionally precise performances let the hysteria speak for itself, while focusing on the music's architectural strength. The results are uncommonly exciting, supple, and above all sensitive to the music's many beauties. Having withstood the test of time, and at two discs for the price of one, this might very well be a first choice for newcomers and collectors alike. Excellent recorded sound too.
Fans of Leonard Bernstein will not want to miss the chance to snap up this limited edition 60-CD set, Bernstein Symphony Edition. With a list price of just over two dollars per disc, it's a bargain not to be missed. What's most impressive about these recordings of well over 100 symphonies made between 1953 and 1976, almost all of which feature the New York Philharmonic, is the scope and depth of Bernstein's repertoire.
Not many world famous composers have been equally successful at writing both absolute and programme music. Moreover, only a mere handful has managed to achieve something truly extraordinary in both genres. One of these coposers was Peter Tchaikovsky. When inspired by great literature, his passion for reading likely stood him in good stead: after all, as far as Tchaikovsky was concerned, reading ranked ‘among the greatest moments of pleasure’.