I became acquainted with Yondani Butt’s Tchaikovsky through his Symphony
and while some of my remarks may not have implied huge affection for
that recording I now find myself coming back for more. Either someone
has forgotten to re-type the back sleeve of this release or that was
a pretty intensive two days in Abbey Road, with this Symphony No.
apparently having been recorded in the same sessions as the Fifth
Such feats are by no means impossible, but some rather vague ensemble
amongst the strings in parts of the first movement and elsewhere may
or may not indicate fatigue.
There are innumerable versions of this great symphony available, and
finding an absolute best is a real challenge. I still have a great deal
of time for Antonio Pappano’s EMI recording of Tchaikovsky’s last three
symphonies (see review
and while his more lyrical view of the Symphony No. 6
do it for everyone there is a sense of grand design in Pappano’s performances,
some of which involves holding back on intensity in order to make all
the greater impact at climaxes. The St Cecilia orchestra has a roomier
acoustic which helps things along, and the strings are indeed better
disciplined. Pappano does do quite a bit of moaning on the podium which
can be mildly disturbing, but this Sixth Symphony
an event and demands hearing all the way though.
Butt does nice work with the Allegro con gracia
which has plenty of ballroom ease and grace. With ensemble being an
issue in the first movement I was a bit concerned about the Allegro
, but everything is held together well enough and the
brass plays with rich sonority. The timpani are a bit massive in the
recorded mix, but this is all good stuff. This is a movement whose conclusion
you want bringing the audience to its feet in premature ecstasies of
applause, and Butt whips a suitably climactic storm. It is of course
the final Adagio lamentoso
which we’ve all been waiting for
however, and this performance has plenty of tear-jerking tragedy, Butt
wringing the emotion from the score with some magical moments. He builds
magnificently over the first five minutes or so, and digs plenty deep
enough for us to feel Tchaikovsky’s suffering soul reaching out to us.
The basses are satisfyingly present with the pedal tone in the final
minutes, laying that carpet on which we must tread so very softly.
One day someone will explain to me why overtures are so often put after
symphonies on CD programmes, and such is the case here. Schumann’s Manfred
overture is given a good performance here, perhaps without quite the
fizz of Georges Szell’s classic Cleveland recording (see review
and with over two minutes extra in timing not quite equalling Szell’s
keen sense of direction. Butt doesn’t wallow however, and as with the
Tchaikovsky he digs out plenty of detail and emotional punch.
The London Symphony Orchestra is a reliably good band, and this is a
fine recording of two magnificent romantic masterpieces. This Tchaikovsky
Symphony No. 6
doesn’t topple my favourites but is by no means
a weak performance. A few ounces more accuracy in the strings here and
there and I would have certainly rated its gritty emotion and honesty
of expression high enough to compete with Pappano.