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Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 3 [Dmitri Kitajenko, Gürzenich Orchestra Köln] [Oehms Classics: OC670] Hybrid SACD, SACD

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3.0 out of 5 stars Competent but nothing more - a weak link in Kitaienko's live Tchaikovsky cycle from Cologne 10 July 2013
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on
Format: Audio CD
One could reasonably nominate Tchaikovsky's third mature symphony, the "polish," as the most difficult to bring off. It has long stretches of repetition, pseudo-development, and Languorous tempos. A conductor like Bernstein who plunges in energetically is probably taking the best approach, but even he must confront the fact that the first three movements feel as if they have the same tempo and soft-grained melodies that are reminiscent of the ballet. There aren't many first-rate recordings, an exception being the fiery concert reading by Svetlanov on BBC Legends. Attempting to polish the "Polish" to a gloss, as Baddo and Karajan do, leads to beautiful monotony. This new version from Cologne's venerable Gurzenich Orch. competes with two recent rivals, Pletnev (on PentaTone) and Gergiev (LSO Live), who both successfully strike a balance of the elements in this diverse score.

Kitaienko doesn't raise high hopes with his sleepy, under=inflected introduction. The vigorous Allegro that forms the main section of the first movement is then attacked a bit crudely. But no one would say that he hasn't created a contrast with the second movement Andante, a waltz-like movement that really does feature too much repetition of its second theme. Kitaienko is experienced enough not to let the pace flag here - many conductors handle it too daintily. but for alal that, the melody proceeds rather ordinarily. The same is true of his straight-ahead treatment of the third movement, which is in the same meter as the previous movement. by this point I wondered how something this mundane could come from a conductor who has been so successful in three tricky scores - Sym. #1, #2, and Manfred - released earlier in this live series.

Nothing to come really leads to lift-off. The Scherzo is like quicksilver, but so are many others from orchestras whose woodwind soloists play much better than these here. The interjection of the counter melody in the trombones is a bit feeble. The celebratory finale, which always reminds me of Sleeping Beauty, is a Polonaise, again in triple time. Kitaienko seems completely uninvolved, which summarizes my reaction to the whole performance. The program is filled out with the Sleeping Beauty Suite, where he sporadically finds the enthusiasm missing from the main events.
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