Following the completion of the 4th’s subtle psychography, 11 years would pass before Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikowsky would return to the composition of a ‘purely’ symphonic work – the 5th Symphony (the composer considered his mighty Manfred Symphony dating from 1885 as his only explicitly programmatic symphony). Despite having just returned from a spectacularly received European concert tour, he commenced the project in a state of complete exhaustion, self-doubt & uncertainty. From his new country residence in Klin, he wrote in the spring of 1888: “I frequently have doubts about my own abilities & wonder if it is not time to stop, & if my creativity has not been stretched to the limit.” His comments in a letter to his benefactor, Nadeshda von Meck, in June, are similar; he fears that “the well may be dry.”
This release in Praga's Reminiscences series of SACD remasterings features the great Russian conductor Yevgeny Mravinsky leading the Leningrad Philharmonic in recordings of two masterpieces of the Romantic repertoire. Brahms's refined and intellectually complex Symphony No.4 is paired with the rich, heart-on-sleeve passion of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No.5 – one of the composer's best loved works.
Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony was the first symphony Christian Lindberg ever heard, at the age of ten. Nine years later it was the first he performed as a professional musician – in the brass section of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Having embarked on a successful conducting career, the trombonist-turned-international-soloist has since had the opportunity also to conduct the work, most memorably at the Mariinskij Theatre in St Petersburg, the city where the composer himself gave the first performance in 1888. With his Arctic Philharmonic Orchestra, based in the Norwegian city of Bodø well north of the Arctic Circle, Lindberg has now recorded this symphony, which has become one of the composer's best-loved works.
…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.
First opening of this symphony… the clarinets sound great!!! such warmth and the resonance of the sound!!. Don't hesitate to get this recording.
For this Fifth Symphony is one of the great ones: magnificently played (of course), urgent and dynamic in the first movement, passionate but always flowing in the second, elegant in the waltz, and triumphant but never needlessly bombastic in the finale… This is a release that Szell fans will surely want to acquire, assuming of course that you don't already own one of its prior incarnations. - David Hirwitz