The most interesting item in this Tchaikovsky reissue, is his
Third Piano Concerto. Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B
flat minor has proved so popular that it has over-shadowed his
Second Piano Concerto significantly and his Third Piano Concerto
almost completely. This is a pity because there is much to admire
in these other two works. The supremely melodic Second Piano Concerto,
in particular, has an outstanding central movement with marvellous
writing for solo violin and solo cello.
This Third Piano
Concerto in E flat was originally planned as a three movement
work but only the opening 16½ minute-or-so first movement, an
Allegro brilliante, was completed. The other two movements,
an Andante and Finale never were. Although these
other two movements were orchestrated after Tchaikovsky’s
death by Taneyev and published as Op. 79 the completed work
never caught on. This Third Concerto may not live up to its
two predecessors but it certainly has its moments. There are
bravura passages together with Tchaikovskian angst as well as
impressive and challenging piano writing to which Philip Fowke
responds with élan.
The Andante cantabile
from Tchaikovsky’s First String Quartet is a popular choice.
Its simple, plaintive nostalgia is nicely caught by Marriner’s
Academy players. The most substantial item in this programme
is Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 in B minor ‘Pathétique’. It
is one of the most recorded symphonies in the repertoire. I
will not bore readers with details of the controversy surrounding
its conception - these are too well known. This 1980 vintage
recording has much to offer, notably a blistering Allegro
molto vivace third movement march and a nicely paced, sensitive
and heart-felt finale. It is a very acceptable filler for those
bent on acquiring the Piano Concerto. Even so, there are more
intense and ultimately more rewarding Pathétiques. I
can think, for instance, of Karajan with the Berlin Philharmonic
Orchestra, and of the Russians: Mravinsky, Gergiev and Pletnev
all of whom score highly. Jansons’s Chandos CD is very good,
so too is Furtwängler’s historical mono account with the Berlin
Philharmonic again, now available on Naxos.
Third Piano Concerto proven, here, to be more than just a curio
together with a very acceptable Pathétique.