Until I obtained this 140 minute 2 CD set by the New Philharmonia under Antal Dorati, I would have been hard pushed to decide on which CD I would like to keep if I could only have one; now the answer is - this one!!!
I suppose it helps that I had never heard the first two suites, so came to them with no expectations save those of a fine orchestra, a legendary conductor, and one of my favourite composers. I was amazed at what I had been missing! On the other hand, I was pretty well versed in the 3rd and 4th suites, so all I needed was a good performance: well, I got it!
Here we have Tchaikovsky at his most lyrical and inventive. Some of the pieces sound a bit like his ballet music, others like movements from maybe an early symphony: all unmistakeably Tchaikovsky except perhaps the opening movement of the 1st suite, which sounds to me as if it could have been written thirty years later than 1878 - very inventive thematic development in particular.
The Philips recording quality is second to none: vibrant, three-dimensional, airy, dynamic - you almost run out of terms of excellence!
If you like any Tchaikovsky at all, do yourself a big favour and get this one!