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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb bargain box in best sound, 28 April 2012
Ralph Moore "Ralph operaphile" (Bishop's Stortford, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Tchaikovsky: Complete Symphonies (Audio CD)
The "Brilliant" label again lives up to its name with a bargain box of extraordinary quality and desirability in this 7 CD set, each disc providing a symphony and a bonus overture or tone poem. Given that space was found for Tchaikovsky's youthful programmatic piece "The Storm", I could wish that "The Tempest" had been included, too, but that is currently available on another excellent bargain disc from Regis alongside Rostropovich's earlier "Rococo Variations" and the "Souvenir de Florence". Otherwise, this is a remarkably comprehensive survey of Tchaikovsky's symphonic works by four of the greatest living Russian conductors, all born in the 30's, happily still with us, and directing some of the best British orchestras. While it is of course perfectly possible to retain a preference for individual recordings, no performance here is less than excellent. For example, Stokowski's celebrated 1958 "Francesca da Rimini" is a tour de force that will never be surpassed for dynamism, but the version here by Simonov is still profoundly satisfying. Similarly, while I will not be retiring Abbado's early recordings of the Second and the Fourth Symphonies with the VPO and the NPO respectively on DG, I would be happy to live with the recordings here by Simonov and Rozhdestvensky. As a bargain box this new issue could hardly be bettered.

Tchaikovsky's symphonies are interpretatively tolerant of a wide variety of tempi and there are what at first sight appear to be idiosyncratic choices from the conductors here, especially Fedoseyev, who tends to extremes in comparison with Markevitch in No.3, but one is not conscious of any excess while listening. This is the authentic big Russian sound: grand, serious readings with profound emotion but never slipping into sentimentality.

Obviously Rozhdestvensky's readings of the "Big Three" form the core of this collection. He has the advantage of the LSO in finest form and, as with all the recordings here, finest digital sound. The horns in the Andante cantabile of No.5 could hardly be dreamier or more seductive and the rasp of the superb LSO brass in the opening movement of that symphony creates a sombre, yet paradoxically thrilling, effect. Rozhdestvensky's choices of speed tend toward leisurely and his phrasing is weighty. As with Mravinsky's famous 1960 recordings on DG, every instrument is so characterful in its interpretation of the notes, although Mravinsky does not enjoy modern sound and comparison with Sian Edwards' Fifth on EMI makes her sound merely lugubrious -and even there, as late as 1990, the recorded ambience is a bit muddy alongside the clarity given to Rozhdestvensky.

His Fourth Symphony first appeared on Pickwick and was instantly welcomed as a compelling reading. Everything is so purposeful and controlled without any sense of calculation; he insists on the orchestra maintaining precise articulation and builds the finale unerringly to ensure that the listener enjoys the physical thrill Tchaikovsky intended despite his vision of the work being considerably more expansive than, say, Mravrinsky's more manic version.

That clarity and control harnessed to exuberant release is a virtue shared by Simonov; I have never heard a more convincing account of the Second. "Winter Dreams" is harder to pull off but Fedoseyev makes it a thing of both charm and real substance.

Anyone who wants to hear Tchaikovsky's symphonies and large-scale orchestral works played wholly authentically and recorded in finest sound, need not hesitate.
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Tchaikovsky: Complete Symphonies
Tchaikovsky: Complete Symphonies by London Symphony Orchestra (Audio CD - 2012)
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