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.
Igor Markevitch's Tchaikovsky performances have been among the best since the early '60s. He turned the unruly London Symphony Orchestra into a first-rate Tchaikovsky ensemble, in which a finely disciplined approach to rhythm provides the perfect foundation for some highly expressive music-making.
Tchaikovsky completed his last set of piano pieces about six months before his death. Each bears a dedication to a friend or colleague including distinguished musicians such as Paul Pabst, Vasily Sapelnikov and Vasily Safonov. The 18 pieces are no mere salon effusions; rather they are richly characterised, sometimes virtuosic, and perfectly crafted miniatures. Schumann and Chopin are deliberately evoked, the music embracing a rich variety of dance, melancholy, fantasy and bravura. The set is played by the brilliant young prizewinner of the Sydney International Piano Competition in 2008, Konstantin Shamray.
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.
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.
This recording, made in 1991, contains two fine performances. Indeed the performance of Hamlet is better than fine, it is positively thrilling. The Polish orchestra are well able to deliver on this and Leaper shows considerable empathy for the music. The recording is good, if a little lacking in absolute clarity at the bottom end which tends to be just a touch inclined to 'muddiness' at moments of greatest demand. This should not be over-emphasised in view of the excellence of the music making and the general acceptance of the recording. Indeed, the weighty sound-stage and quite close balance suits the heavier approach of Leaper when compared to Karajan on DGG for example, and to a lesser extent, Jansons on Chandos.
This was Kyung-Wha Chung's first recording, made when she was 22, just after her sensational London debut in the Tchaikovsky Concerto with the same orchestra and conductor. It is splendid. Only a young, radiantly talented player could make these two tired warhorses sound so fresh and vital; only a consummately masterful one could sail through their daunting technical difficulties with such easy virtuosity and perfection. Her tone is flawlessly beautiful, varied in color and inflection; she puts her technical resources entirely at the service of the music, giving every note meaning and honestly felt expression without exaggeration or sentimentality. The Tchaikovsky has charm, humor, sparkle; the slow movement is dreamy, wistful, and unmuted but subdued and inward. The Sibelius is dark and bleak but full-blooded, passionate, and intense. The orchestra sounds and plays better in the Sibelius.
Deutsche Grammophon's 2010 reissue of Mikhail Pletnev's recordings of the symphonies and major orchestral works of Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky is a seven-disc trimline box set that presents the music in a logical fashion and meets expectations of what this admired conductor can do. Pletnev leads the Russian National Orchestra with confidence and clearheaded thinking, and his interpretations of Tchaikovsky definitely lean to the rational side of Romanticism: as passionate and emotional as the works are in the public imagination, Pletnev always remembers that Tchaikovsky was at heart a classicist, so he is careful not to neglect the formal concerns and gracefulness of melody that are the soul of the music.
Wow! This is music making on a cosmic scale. You may hear some jaded critic offer up the following generic comment about this release: "These three players, gathered together for only the second time, naturally can't equal the subtle give and take of more established chamber ensembles." Bull. All three artists rank among the most inspirational and experienced chamber players of our time, and here they set the notes on fire in performances of shattering intensity, improvisational spontaneity, and (in the Tchaikovsky) Herculean grandeur. Argerich's performance of the concerto-like piano part of the Tchaikovsky Trio is especially impressive; she seems to know instinctively when to dominate the proceedings and when to let her partners take over; and the final "Theme and Variations"–a huge movement half an hour in length–seldom has sounded so cohesive and meaningful. As to the Shostakovich, well, what can I say? This is one of the most profoundly moving experiences in music, and how well this trio knows it! The three players find the perfect tempo for the third movement Passacaglia, then build the tragic finale as inexorably as fate itself.
Signum’s fourth disc with the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra continues their series of the great core Russian repertoire. Featuring the Orchestral suite of one of Tchaikovsky’s most famous ballets Swan Lake, complemented with Rachmaniov’s final composition Symphonic Dances.