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Tchaikovsky, P.I.: Symphonies Nos. 1, "Winter Daydreams" and 6, "Pathetique"

Tchaikovsky, P.I.: Symphonies Nos. 1, "Winter Daydreams" and 6, "Pathetique"

29 Sep 2009
5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Disc 2
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Digital Booklet: Tchaikovsky, P.I.: Symphonies Nos. 1, "Winter Daydreams" and 6, "Pathetique"
Digital Booklet: Tchaikovsky, P.I.: Symphonies Nos. 1, "Winter Daydreams" and 6, "Pathetique"
Album Only

Product details

  • Original Release Date: 29 Sept. 2009
  • Release Date: 1 Sept. 2009
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: LPO
  • Copyright: (C) 2009 LPO
  • Total Length: 1:29:09
  • Genres:
  • ASIN: B002OM0NR2
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 422,461 in Albums (See Top 100 in Albums)

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Format: Audio CD
It is a complete mystery to me why the first three symphonies of Tchaikovsky are so neglected, both in the concert hall and on disc. They are all tuneful works, inventively orchestrated. And the first, which at some point gained the subtitle 'Winter Daydreams', has claim to be the most enchanting of the lot. I have had a soft spot for this work ever since first hearing it over 40 years ago on an HMV/Melodiya L.P.

Jurowski's account with the L.P.O. is simply outstanding. It was recorded live at a concert in the Royal Festival Hall, but more of that later. The orchestra is on top form, all sections, with Tchaikovsky's glorious woodwind melodies characterfully played. But then so are the horn parts, and it's clear that the orchestra throughout are galvanised by Jurowski. Wonderful pointing of the jaunty folk-tune in the finale. I was completely won over by this performance, and it joins the account by the U.S.S.R. State Symphony Orchestra under Svetlanov (Melodiya) as my joint favourite. Svetlanov is a mite brisker, but Jurowski's recording is far superior.

With the Sixth Symphony, we are, of course, on hallowed turf. There are literally dozens of recordings, and a surprising number of really excellent ones. I think Jurowski holds his own here, although I wasn't so immediately bowled over as with the performance of the First. The first movement has a sense of controlled hysteria, and I think that's the best description of Jurowski's approach. The second movement is rightly a little destabilising. It seems to want to be a waltz, but it isn't one. The third movement has always seemed out of place to me. An orchestral showpiece here, in the middle of Tchaikovsky's most sombre symphony? Towards the end of this performance of the third movement, a sinister note enters; forced jollity?
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Format: Audio CD
I cannot claim to be to be any sort of expert with regards to classical music and so my views are merely personal and subjective. However, that noted,I believe that these performances are excellent and wish that I had been to the actual concert where they were recorded. The 1st Symphony sounds very Russian and it is hard to listen without thinking of that country. The 6th is something else, there is no recorded applause at the end and that is quite correct as the final just leaves one dumbstruck.
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What a superb recording. Jarowski and the LPO at their best. His attention to detail is second to none and he always brings out the best in this highly talented orchestra. Having been lucky enough to be present when both recordings were made, the disc brings back good memories every time I play it. The 6th is one of my favourite Tchaikovski symponies, but I still rate Manfred another recording from the LPO and Jurowski as my very favourite.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars 2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A strong "Winter Dreams" is oddly offset by a lightweight "Pathetique" 2 Oct. 2009
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The young Jurowski, born in 1972, has graduated from wunderkind status to being an established figure at the highest echelons of conducting, with a strong focus on opera and Russian music. This twofer of the Tchaikovsky Sym. #1 "Winter Dreams" and #6 "Pathetique" began a complete cycle that recently was added to with a superlative pairing of the Fourth and Fifth. Here I was particularly taken with "Winter Dreams," a melodic but unformed work that exists somewhere between a symphony and a ballet suite. In the first and second movements Jurowski's timing of around 11 min. each is more urgent and less languid than the Gergiev account just released with the London Sym. As beautiful as the melodies are in both movements, massaging every nuance as Gergiev does makes me restless for something new to happen. Jurowski's account doesn't have sound that is as warm or close up as for Gergiev, but I prefer is pacing and the fact that he makes the score sound smaller, less important - "Winter Dreams" shows its garrulous side when it's inflated to sound like mature Tchaikovsky.

The scanperubg Scherzo is meant to be merry (the marking is 'scherzando giocoso'), and Jurowski captures the humor better than Gergiev, who tends to be poker-faced, one of his few faults. The orchestral playing here is looser in terms of execution compared with Gergiev's LSO, but also more exuberant. The Trio in fast waltz time is buoyant and lovely. Not many symphonies have a finale that begins with instructions to be lugubrious, and Gergiev takes the melancholy mood into a deeper shade of brown than Jurowski does. But Jurowski's pacing connects better with the Allegro that is to follow. I wish the sound had ore impact when the fast part arrives; it would give a greater sense of grandeur, but Jurowski is urgent and upbeat, which also works. This is the only movement where Gergiev's depth creates a stronger impression than Jurowski's approach. That doesn't detract from a reading that is as good as any I've ever heard.

There is hugely more competition in the Pathetqiue, of course, and with Gergiev leading the sumptuous vienna Phil. (on Decca) and Karajan the Berlin Phil. (at least three times, on DG), not to mention a classic RCA Living Stereo recording with Reiner and the Chicago Sym., one can't expect the London Phil. to be a serious rival for sheer virtuosity and sheen. Jurowski begins with misplaced refinement and elegance, I think, the same flaw that shows up in his debut Manfred Sym. with the LPO. I found myself losing interest, remembering that just yesterday an all but forgotten recording by Giuseppe Sinopoli from 1991 (on DG) had made these opening moments sound passionate and new. The arrival of the big tune doesn't disturb Jurowski's cool; he's deliberately underplaying the emotional side of a movement whose emotions are meant to be overwhelming. the result, I'm afraid, is bland.

The second movement, with its famous waltz in 5/4 time, proceeds lightly with a nice spring in its step, but it, too, is very cool, to the point that I wondered if the music meant anything to Jurowski. The Scerzo in march time is taken very fast, a danger unless the orchestra is top flight, as the LPO certainly is. But here the quickness isn't a virtue; it makes many passages sound flimsy - Jurowski gives almost no weight to anything. Other listeners may enjoy the mad dash for its own sake. I prefer the finale to feel tragic, but that is not what "pathetique" implies, and Jurowski, in keeping with the rest of his interpretation, imarts an air of light melancholy and regret. He is un-Russian to a fault, if that's his intent. For all his gifts, I was disappointed and would count this "Pathetique" a lightweight that leaves no memory that it ever happened.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best "Winter Daydreams" I've ever heard, and No 6 good too 3 Nov. 2009
By B. G. Reinhart - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
People tend to treat Tchaikovsky's First Symphony a little patronizingly: a lot of critics say things like "it was his first try," "it was before he found his voice," "structurally deficient but charming" - in other words, they say, the symphony is enjoyable but serious listeners ought to play something else instead. This recording very forcefully argues that the First is a masterpiece. The London Philharmnonic and Vladimir Jurowski play the living daylights out of "Winter Daydreams," and this live performance, captured by LPO microphones, demonstrates that the symphony belongs on orchestra programs around the world.

There are three things I love about this performance: first, it's actually quite dramatic. With my stereo cranked up, the first movement's climax makes a mighty impression: the London Philharmonic plays with great physical force and precision, and Jurowski whips up a ferocious symphonic storm (maybe it's a blizzard). The drama is especially evident in the finale, which is here played as thrillingly as anybody ever has. A lot of people complain that the last movement just goes on too long, is too "pompous," and Tchaikovsky could have made it a few minutes shorter. When I listen to recordings of the symphony by Riccardo Muti, Adrian Leaper, and Valery Gergiev (for example), I agree with them. But when Jurowski and the LPO are playing (and I've listened to this disc seven or eight times since it arrived a few weeks ago), this music feels not a second too long. They take the introduction slowly and forebodingly, then simply stop worrying about being "pompous" and just have tons of fun. Here the finale sounds enthusiastic, exultant.

The second thing that's special about this performance is its sense of architecture: Vladimir Jurowski really understands the "big picture" of the First Symphony. The slow movement is beautifully handled, tempi gently altered as it flows along, so that the great melodies seem to fold naturally into each other - an organic blooming of great tunes. Also, check out how Jurowski has the orchestra hesitate ever-so-slightly before revealing the main theme of the finale. They create an almost unbearable sense of expectation.

Finally, this performance is just plain beautiful! The oboe solo in the slow movement, the lush string playing in the third, the huge bass drum sound in the finale (which rattled my concrete floor), all captured in great sound. And the fact that this live performance was recorded in a single take is evidence of one of the very best orchestras in the world at the top of its form.

The performance of the Sixth Symphony is also excellent, though it is not special, and it's certainly not the main attraction on this album. There is nothing wrong with it per se - and indeed, the second movement is very graceful, the third quick and fierce, and the cataclysmic thunder-clap in the first movement quite terrifying - but in digital sound I still prefer the recording by Christoph Eschenbach and the Philadelphia Orchestra, released last year. I will nevertheless be returning to this recording often; it's not going to be your favorite, but it is certainly very good.

In a way it's duplicitous of me to write this review for Amazon, since I've already written a (quite long) professional review of this album for the website MusicWeb (due for publication mid-November). Those who want more information before making a purchase should visit that site or ClassicsToday, where David Hurwitz quite rightly gave this album a 10/10. But if you are in the market for a recording of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 1, stop reading now and buy this album. It is uniquely enthusiastic, spectacularly beautiful, by turns thrilling and heartfelt, all captured in sumptuous sound before a live audience. Boy, do I wish I had been there that night. But now, in a sense, I am, and you can be too.

P.S. Do some comparison-shopping. I was able to find a new copy from the United Kingdom for $13.
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