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Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 3 in D major (‘Polish’) (1875) [45.39]
Symphony No. 5 in E minor (1888) [45.50]
The Sleeping Beauty Suite (1890) [19.53]
Swan Lake Suite (1875-76) [28.22]
Marche slav [9:54]
Vienna Symphony Orchetsra/Moshe Atzmon (3)
London Symphony Orchestra/Claudio Abbado (5)
Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra/Witold Rowicki (ballets)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Ferdinand Leitner (Marche)
rec. Simmeringer Hof, Vienna, 1973 (3); Studio Anvil Films, Denham, UK, 1970 (5); Philharmonic Hall, Warsaw, 1959 (ballets); Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, 1959 (Marche)
DECCA ELOQUENCE 482 6176 [2 CDs: 149:47]

Tchaikovsky’s ‘Polish’ symphony has not been valued as highly Tchaikovsky’s 4,5th and 6th symphonies. A great pity for this is a tuneful, thrilling score that deserves to be better appreciated.

This latest Decca Eloquence release includes a very decent recording from 1973 in very good quality sound from Wiener Symphoniker conducted by Moshe Atzmon. The outer movements really excite with deliciously tenderly romantic interludes. Atzmon’s Schumann-esque ‘Alla Tedesca’ enchants, and as everywhere the ballet-like influence is charmingly presented. Atzmon’s gorgeous Andante elegiac haunts.

There have been noteworthy recordings of this delightful work by numerous conductors including: Jansons, Karajan, Rostropovich, Markevitch, and Rozhdestvensky. (Janson’s being particularly admired as has Petrenko’s Onyx recording released this year.)

I wish I could be as enthusiastic about Abbado’s reading of Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony. The sound is first class and for the most part the outer movements are exciting enough; it is the insensitive, insecure intonation of the horn at the beginning of the second movement that really lets it down.

For me the benchmark recording of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony has always been the early 1950s Karajan/ Denis Brain recording, because of Brain’s beautifully phrased horn solo at the opening of the slow movement. Jansons’ Chandos 1984 recording has been generally admired but its CD total timing at under 45 minutes is hardly generous. For bargain seekers, the venerable 1959 George Szell recording with the Cleveland Orchestra now on Sony BC 1064 is not to be sniffed at.

Marche slav, Tchaikovsky’s up-market 1812 variant, receives a rollicking reading from Ferdinand Leitner.

The Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty ballet suites, in the capable hands of Witol Rowicki, receive beautifully polished, nicely judged and sensitive performances; the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra’s woodwind section is especially noteworthy.

Warmly welcomed return of Moshe Atzmon’s ‘Polish’ Symphony reading; not so much enthusiasm on the reappearance of Abbado’s recording of the Fifth Symphony.

Ian Lace



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