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TCHAIKOVSKY, The London Symphony Orchestra, Gennady Rozhdestvensky

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CD1 RRC1212 [68:50] Symphony No: 4 (1877) [43:20] Marche Slave (1876) [9:48] 1812 Overture (1880) [15:19] * CD2 RRC1213 [63:46] Symphony No: 5 (1888) [47:00] Capriccio Italien (1879) [16:42] CD3 RRC1214 [60:09] Symphony No: 6 (1893) [45:40] Overture - The Storm (1864) [14:17] London Symphony Orchestra/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Yuri Ahronovitch * rec. All Saints, Tooting, London, February 1987. DDD
  • The London Symphony Orchestra - orchestra
  • Gennady Rozhdestvensky - conductor
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99.00 PLN

3 CD:

Nr kat.: RRC3009
Label  : Regis Records

This is a success and an easy recommendation if you want Tchaikovsky’s last three numbered symphonies in good and better performances and recordings. The pity is that Rozhdestvensky and IMP did not add Manfred and Francesca da Rimini. As it is, these three discs, available in a single slip-case or separately, are just what the doctor ordered. At bargain price, which is about £5 each in the UK, this is cheaper by a pound than any Naxos equivalent. The sound is in the superior tradition of other Regis IMP-licensed discs. This includes an extraordinary disc - something of an insider’s secret: same conductor, same orchestra, same venue just one year later: Rachmaninov Symphony No. 2 (see review). Rozhdestvensky is sturdy, tender, imaginative and prepared to let the brass rip. He knows these works of his fellow Russian very well. Perhaps his andantino for No. 4 could have done with more of a lilt but the élan and flightiness of the Scherzo more than compensate. Also on the positive side the valour and high romance of the Allegro con fuoco communicates well if without the ferocious unanimity and steely edge of Mravinsky and the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra (DG). A soundly inspired single disc sleeper is Marin Alsop’s Fourth with the Colorado Symphony (see review). Rozhdestvensky's Fifth is broad, earnest and controlled. There is none of the near hysteria of Mravinsky (DG) nor of Monteux’s unremittingly vital live LSO version for Vanguard in Vienna (see review). We could have done with a little more of that rather than having everything quite so buttoned down. The brass are caught on good form with a healthy rasp in the brass buffets at 4.10 of the first movement. The French horn section is in the pink with a mature rolling roar to their ravening calls and fanfares. The conductor also adopts an expansive stance in the Pathétique but can still unleash a Blitzkrieg assault on the emotions as at 10:30 in I and 7:20 in III. I have heard nervier interpretations of the allegro molto vivace but the playing is spirited certainly. The best movement is the adagio lamentoso where not once is the concentration broken and where a myriad orchestral details register with fresh clarity. An example is the metallic rattle of the horns played well - all the way down to pp. Of the 'makeweights' two are the war-horse stock of the Royal Albert Hall Victor Hochhauser concerts of yesteryear. Each of the three fillers is allocated one per symphony. The Marche is one of Tchaikovsky's few concessions to the Borodin nationalist school. The Capriccio Italien - that incongruous mix of Italian and French in the title - exhibits the virtues of tight control and precision. As an illustration of Rozhdestvensky’s attention to fine detail and colour listen to the controlled 'jabs' of the strings at 4.03. This is deliberate and four-square rather than euphoric. While I hanker after more substantial fillers: e.g. Hamlet, Francesca and Romeo and Juliet, two of those selected (the Marche and Capriccio) will go down well with the novice. The Storm (after the play by Ostrovsky) is a rarity, an early work; not top-drawer Tchaikovsky but Rozhdestvensky nevertheless gives it a lively interpretation avoiding bombast. The 1812 Overture has the LSO conducted by Yuri Ahronovitch. This conductor was born in Leningrad in 1932 - not 1972 as claimed by the notes. He studied at the Leningrad Conservatoire with Sanderling and Rakhlin. He held the latter in high esteem and his hothouse expressive style appears to be based on Rakhlin’s approach. He was principal conductor of the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra (1964-72) then emigrated to Israel in 1972. He is likely to be best known outside the old USSR by his conducting of the Rachmaninov piano concertos for Vasary and DG and for his tiredly misfired Manfred with the LSO (again DG). Apparently he also conducted the French National Orchestra for Decca and Aristocrate in the two Prokofiev violin concertos (soloist: Wally). He is the conductor of the 1985 Caprice CD of Gunnar de Frumerie’s opera Singoalla (CAP22023). He died in Köln in 2002. Rather written off because of his unfashionably hyper-expressive approach Ahronovitch on a good day was formidable. I shall never forget the RFH concert broadcast one late summer’s evening on 19 September 1978. It included the LSO conducted by Ahronovitch in an all-Tchaikovsky programme. I still have a now ailing cassette of a hair-raising, scorching and swooning Francesca da Rimini that made Stokowski and Mravinsky sound tame. As for his Manfred, it easily tops Svetlanov’s but what on earth had happened when he recorded it with the LSO in Watford Town Hall in February the previous year. Now if BBC Legends are looking for the golden fleece of concert experiences let them dig out a good tape of those RFH performances. All that said, his 1812 is coarse and coarsely recorded. The ordnance sounds grafted on and lacks bass impact. Regis provide sound and extensive liner notes from James Murray in English only. When the Rozhdestvensky recordings were reviewed by me some years back as part of a Brilliant Classics set minus the Ahronovitch but plus Slovak performances of the two popular concertos (see review) I wrote: “They do not set the pulse racing nor are they manic. These are honest and inspired without exaggeration or affected point making.” Hearing them again in such gripping sound I must have had an off day and take the opportunity now to correct myself. These are often exciting and extremely moving performances. The temperature in the Fifth Symphony is cooler than the most exalted readings but it’s a matter of fine degree in a ferociously competitive market. The Fourth and particularly the Sixth are among the very best. You could hardly better these in this price range. If you love your Tchaikovsky or see yourself as a Tchaikovsky connoisseur then you must not miss this set. Beginners too would do well to make this their Tchaikovsky symphony box of choice. If you want all six then try Temirkanov’s BMG-RCA box (see review) but for ‘the famous three’ there’s little real competition for this Regis set in or out of the price range. Rob Barnett https://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2006/May06/Tchaikovsky_sys_RRC3009.htm


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