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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Recording of Tchaikovsky's EIGHT Symphonies, 14 Oct 2013
By 
John Fowler (urbana, illinois) - See all my reviews
It looks like Sony finally realised that they were sitting on something special.
Eugene Ormandy is the only conductor who can claim to have recorded all EIGHT Tchaikovsky Symphonies. *

Sony is crypt-keeper for the recorded legacies of Columbia and RCA.
Ormandy recorded the 4th Symphony four times, and the 5th and 6th Symphonies five times each, with the same orchestra, for three different labels over a 44 year period.
He recorded the sequence twice in stereo, first for Columbia (1959-63), then RCA (1968-73). **
Ormandy's internal clock was remarkably consistent - the timings are virtually identical.

When they had a choice, Sony went with the later RCA recordings:
Symphonies 4-6, symphonic poems, and ballet excerpts.

The mysterious "Symphony No. 7 in E flat" on CD 6 was recorded for Columbia in 1962.
I notice that Sony no longer calls it "Symphony No. 7" - every previous recording has called it that, so I will stick with it.

Sony does not include program notes with these bargain boxes, so cut this out and save it. (You're welcome):

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Symphony No.7 in E flat" is a reconstruction by Semyon Bogatyryev,
premiered in Moscow in 1957, based on Tchaikovsky's sketches for
an abandoned symphony project. This was 1892, when Tchaikovsky
put this symphony (actually 5b) aside to start work on the
Pathetique Symphony.
-- In 1893, Tchaikovsky returned to his sketches for the Symphony's
first movement, and transformed them into the single-movement
Third Piano Concerto, Op.75. Bogatyryev excised the solo piano,
and revised the orchestration. -- Tchaikovsky recast his sketches
for the slow movement and finale of the symphony as a work for
piano and orchestra (completed by Sergei Taneyev and published
posthumously as "Andante and Finale" Op.79) For the 7th Symphony,
Bogatyryev returned to Tchaikovsky's original concept for symphony
orchestra without piano solo. -- Tchaikovsky recycled his sketches
for the third movement into the "Scherzo-fantaisie" Op.72, No.10
for piano. Bogatyryev orchestrated it for the Symphony's scherzo.

1st movement based on Piano Concerto 3, Op. 75
2nd movement based on Andante from "Andante and Finale" Op. 79
3rd movement based on "Scherzo-fantaisie" Op.72, No.10
4th movement based on Finale from "Andante and Finale" Op.79

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I actually prefer the first movement of the Tchaikovsky-Bogatyryev "Symphony" to the pure Tchaikovsky 3rd Piano Concerto.
Sacrilege
(before abandoning the Symphony, Tchaikovsky had fully orchestrated the first 176 bars, which made Bogatyryev's job a lot easier).
Both are in this box. Compare them for yourself.
The "Andante and Finale" is sometimes appended to the single movement Third Concerto to create the three movement Piano Concerto No. 3 in E flat, Op.75/79, a work on which which Naxos has cornered the market: Piano Concertos 1 & 3 -- or -- Piano Concertos

The first two movements of the 7th Symphony are worthy to stand with Tchaikovsky's mature symphonies. Gorgeous music.
Only the bombastic finale is a disappointment.

- The Serenade for Strings is a nice performance, unfortunately disfigured by cuts in the first and fourth movements.
My favorite uncut performance is the 1967 Karajan, Berlin PO: Tchaikovsky: Overture 1812, Serenade for Strings - preferable to his 1980s digital remake that DG has favored for most reissues.

- Prior to this 1965 recording of the Second Piano Concerto with Gary Graffman, every pianist played the corrupt edition by Alexander Siloti.
Graffman used Tchaikovsky's original score for movements 1 and 3; Siloti for movement 2.
Every subsequent recording has used Tchaikovsky's original for all three movements (except Emil Gilels, who remained loyal to Siloti until the end).
Despite the abridged second movement, the Graffman/Ormandy has always been my favorite. The Philadelphia Orchestra makes a glorious noise.

REMASTERINGS: The recorded sound is gorgeous ("24-bit high resolution audio" - no other information).
Ormandy's RCA recordings had a reputation for being less gorgeous than Columbia, but that may have been due to the ghastly 1970s RCA LP pressings (Dynagroove and Dynaflex -- yecch).
Now the sound of the Columbia and RCA recordings is remarkably consistent. Diabetics beware.

There are two extremes of Tchaikovsky interpretation on record:
The Romantic versus the Classical.
[Romantic = Emotional, Undisciplined, Messy].
[Classical = Intellectual, Controlled, Neat].
Tchaikovsky himself embodied both Romantic and Classical tendencies.
I can appreciate both approaches.

For the Six "Complete" Tchaikovsky Symphonies, my favorites are:

Romantic: __________ Bernstein, New York Philharmonic -- or -- Rostropovich, London Phil. (+ Manfred Symphony)
Classical: __________ Markevitch, London Symphony -- or -- Abravanel, Utah Symphony (+ Manfred Symphony)
Middle-of-the-Road: __ Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra (+ Manfred Symphony + Symphony 7)

6 Symphonies -- or -- Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 1-6; Manfred Symphony; Romeo and Juliet; Francesca da Rimini -- or -- Complete Symphonies -- or -- Tchaikovsky: Complete Symphonies; Overtures

Ormandy's Tchaikovsky is Middle-of-the-Road.
This is not a criticism.
These are safe, sane performances by a truly great orchestra.
Ormandy does lean to the Romantic side in the slower music, where he is not above piling on the schmaltz.
Listen to what he does to the Big Tune at 2:37 in the second movement of Manfred.... Nice.

Expect no stunning revelations from Ormandy (aside from Symphony 7).
The Philadelphia Orchestra is the same size as the New York and London orchestras, but it produced a larger, more sumptuous tone.
This "Philadelphia Sound" works especially well with Tchaikovsky.
The Utah Symphony is smaller than the others; an alternative approach, well worth hearing.

Ormandy has an advantage over other sets based on completeness and low price.
An excellent first choice for newcomers to classical music (though lack of program notes is a drawback).
Geezers will need it for the 7th Symphony, a work of which I am inordinately fond.

Right now I am a bit jaded about Symphonies 4-6.
I've heard them so many times that only something really out of the ordinary can get my juices flowing.

I can always count on Koussevitzky: Serge Koussevitzky conducts Tchaikovsky Symphonies.
Serge Koussevitzky was born on a Russian shtetl in 1874.
He was 19 when Tchaikovsky composed the Pathetique Symphony; 43 when the Tsar was overthrown.
He ended up in America, where he conducted the Boston Symphony from 1924 to 1951
(young Leonard Bernstein was his assistant).
Koussevitzky's Tchaikovsky is Romantic, Emotional, Undisciplined and Messy. Russian to the core - I love it. ***
These are historical recordings in mono sound.

My current stereo favorite is also something completely different: Klemperer Edition: Romantic Symphonies & Overtures.
Klemperer's strings were seated in an arc: First Violins, Basses, Cellos, Violas, Second Violins.
Amazing clarity, supported by EMI's engineering staff.
Not all violins scrunched together on the left, with lower strings on the right (which is what you will hear with Bernstein, Rostropovich, Markevitch, Abravanel and Ormandy (not to mention Karajan and Solti).
This blended sound is a Twentieth Century innovation that Tchaikovsky would not have recognised.

Current Stereo Favorites:
Symphony 1 = Bernstein, maybe Ivanov *
Symphony 2 = Dorati ****
Symphony 3 = Bernstein
Symphony 4 = Klemperer, maybe Rozhdestvensky *
Symphony 5 = Klemperer
Symphony 6 = Klemperer, maybe Late Bernstein *****
Symphony 7 = Ormandy
Manfred = Rostropovich, maybe Svetlanov's slightly wacky performance: TCHAIKOVSKY. Manfred Symphony. Berlin Philharmonic, Svetlanov

* No sooner did Sony issue Eugene Ormandy's collection of Tchaikovsky's Eight Symphonies than the budget label Alto brought us a second collection of all eight, but this is the work of three Russian conductors:
Symphony 1 conducted by Ivanov, Symphonies 2-6 and Manfred conducted by Rozhdestvensky, Symphony 7 conducted by Skripka.
On the Amazon Search Bar, enter
ASIN: B00EIPILB8

** There were digital recordings of Symphonies 5 and 6 made for the independent label Delos in 1981. VERY late in Ormandy's career.
I haven't heard them, but the reviews were not kind.

*** Come to think of it, Yevgeny Mravinsky was also Russian to the core - on the Amazon Search Bar, enter
ASIN: B000E0W24S
but his lean, aristocratic Tchaikovsky is the polar opposite of Koussevitzky.
Both are recommended, but Koussevitzky had the soul of a peasant. Just more fun to listen to.

**** Dorati - balletic performances of Symphonies 1-3. On the Amazon Search Bar, enter ASIN: B0000041JT

***** Late Bernstein - Perfect for when I am depressed. It always cheers me up to know that there is someone who is even more depressed.
On the Amazon Search Bar, enter
ASIN: B000TLI020 - or - ASIN: B00004W3J3

P.S. I hope Sony follows this up with a box of "Ormandy Conducts Rachmaninov".
The World's Foremost Authority on the music of Rachmaninov always had a high opinion of Ormandy.

P.P.S. The Sony Masterworks website is worse than useless. Every time I click on the picture of Eugene Ormandy, it takes me to a blank page:
"Oops! Google Chrome could not connect to [...]"
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A match made in heaven, 23 Oct 2013
By 
Alan Montgomery "Opera lover" (Oberlin, Oh USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Ormandy and Philadelphia were a pairing made to record Tchaikovsky. These CDs are, at long last, together and in refurbished sound that cleans away the older sound from earlier recordings - Stern's Violin Concerto or Rose's Rococo Variations. And the CDs - 12 in all - are full. CD1 has Symphonies 1 & 2 on it, and that is just over 80 minutes worth of music!

What makes Ormandy conducting Tchaikovsky important is the non-interventionist approach to Ormandy's art. He interprets, but it always seems as if you are hearing Tchaikovsky as he wrote it rather than as interpreted by --- fill in your favorite conductor. An example for me is Symphony #4, last movement. So many conductors take this movement so terribly fast that it has a frantic nature at odds with the music. Ormandy gives it weight and enough speed to be blazingly exciting. I have all of these on earlier CDs, which I will now give away. This release MUST reach US shores, because the compilation is so comprehensive. Customers are finally starting to realize that Ormandy in this repertoire is tops.

I greatly appreciate the other review here - by John Fowler - because he outlines so many differences between recordings. I always consider Ormandy above Bernstein in this rep mainly due to Bernstein's "too deep" approach. It becomes too monumental. Ormandy is sentimental in the right way, playing to the hilt but never over the top. An occasional tempo is a tad slow - in ballet movements particularly - but dancers might disagree. I haven't had time to listen to everything yet, but I assume the Nutcracker still uses trumpets instead of a choir in the excerpt at the end of act one.

At this price, buy this release. The box even has room for me to add my Perlman Violin Concerto with the Serenade Melancholique to the box. He takes the Concerto uncut, where Stern makes minor cuts. That is an EMI release.

Concerto #2 with Graffman is of the Siloti edition. It is brilliantly played, but the second movement eliminates some trio sections that are not at all extraneous and should not have been cut. At the time of the recording, however, few pianists were exploring Tchaikovsky beyond "the" piano concerto (for which my favorite is still Cliburn with Koondrashin.)
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