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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars

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on 25 January 2013
These are legendary recordings by a great conductor of Tchaikovsky's three great symphonies. Mravinsky and the Leningrad Philharmonic recorded these in London and Vienna in 1960. Its hard to believe they are over 50 years old the sound quality is amazing. These are great performances.
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on 8 July 2017
Great recordings.
Vaclav Talich has made a Tchaikovsky «Pathetique» with The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra July 8-11 1953 , Rudolfinum, Prague.
A conductor and a orchestra i like very, very much!
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on 19 March 2017
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on 22 October 2009
Since much has already been said of the interpretations on these discs, I will restrict myself to siding with those that consider them to be at or near the top of the best-ever list.

My first acquaintance with these recordings was in the 1960s, when I was beginning to collect LP records. Mravinsky saw to it that the Pathetique became my favourite symphony, and it has remained so ever since. Herbert von Karajan also recorded these works for Deutsche Grammophon, and it is arguable that he achieved finer recordings from a technical standpoint - he was apparently passionately interested in high fidelity reproduction. I preferred Mravinsky's readings, however.

Having been disappointed with CD reissues of recordings that I valued on LP, I approached these with some scepticism. Let me say at once that I consider DG to have done a fine job of re-mastering, and I was relieved not to hear tape hiss, wow and flutter, distortion, or any other problem that could have been associated with the original 1960 analogue recording; indeed I had not heard them as clearly previously on vinyl discs. The frequency response is fine, wider than I feared it might be, and the dynamic range acceptable. That just leaves the quality of the original orchestral balance to be considered, now clearly revealed.
These are studio recordings, made after a series of concerts. Incidentally the sleeve notes state that the first and second violins were placed antiphonally for the concerts, but together for the recordings. Also it may be of interest that the 5th. symphony is split over the 2 discs. The vibrato used by wind instruments is brought to the fore by close microphone placement; brass and woodwind are balanced forwardly, the reeds very 'reedy' and the trumpets brash. Overall however the balance is good enough to hear the necessary detail, and there is a pleasant degree of reverberation. Plus points abound, the final movement of the Pathetique being especially impressive.
As for the minuses, I miss the bass drum in the final movement of the 4th. symphony and in the 3rd. movement of the Pathetique. Presumably the fairly high overall level, useful in overcoming tape hiss and vinyl granular noise, did not allow enough headroom for the large power of the bass drum, and it suffers in the mix. I also feel that the last movement of the 4th. symphony is a little low in level compared with the other 3 movements.

And that's about it. Does this issue compare with the best modern recordings? Technically, not really, but it comes close, and the music will soon make you forget it's shortcomings.
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VINE VOICEon 14 August 2009
To this day, the music of Tchaikovsky has remained popular throughout the world and its hardly surprising that recordings of his most popular works abound.

Because of his popularity it can be easy to take his music for granted, and to be honest, there is nothing worse than Tchaikovsky's music being poorly performed and recorded, and believe you me, I have heard some pretty dire versions over the years.

I am happy to report however, that this is not the case in this very fine box set of the composer's final three symphonies, the most popular he ever wrote. These works have been admirably performed and recorded and almost certainly, measured against future recordings, they will be difficult to surpass.

Of course, the Leningrad Philharmonic is such a fine orchestra in its own right and certainly could not perform these works in a routine or slapdash fashion. Moreover, Evgeny Mravinsky holds the orchestra in such a way preventing it from running away with itself and drawing out some lovely playing especially from the strings, woodwind and horns. Listen for example to the horns of Symphony no 4 in the opening bars; the strings in the third section of the first movement of symphony no 5, makes the listener sit up and take notice, almost making his hair stand on end too.
Both works are admirably performed and recorded.

The 6th Symphony, the composer's final work completed only a few weeks before his death, has always been a great challenge for conductors and orchestras alike. This may be because it is the composer's most personal work. The rift between Tchaikovsky and his patroness and friend Madame Nadesha von Meck affected him deeply. Moreover, he may also have felt that his life was coming to a close and that is reflected in the haunting final movement of the 6th "Final: Adagio lamentso-Andante."

The finest version of the 6th I can recall over the years was Karajan's famous recording with the Berlin Philharmonica recorded by DGG during the late 1960s. I never thought that would be surpassed, until now.

Mravinsky and the Leningrad have now recorded what I believe to be the best version of the 6th, not only matching but surpassing Karajan's version in every movement. It now has to be regarded as the definitive version currently available. The string playing in this final movement is superb by the way.

Even if you already have versions of these works in your collection, I would thoroughly recommend this very fine box set which is also superbly priced. Would be a shame to miss it.
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on 31 March 2015
For my 21st birthday in 1965 my parents gave me my first stereo gramophone and with it a couple of stereo LPs, one of which was Mravinski's performance of Tchaikowsky's 4th. It astounded me then and has over the years become progressively worn by repeated playing! Like other reviewers, I've heard many other performances, both live and recorded, but none has ever matched the fire and intensity of the Mravinski recording. I think that this music is in the blood of Russian performers. I still have many Supraphon recordings of Dvorak and Smetena by the Czech Philharmonic under such conductors as Talich, Karel Ancerl and Vaclav Neumann and I have never heard better. Similarly, if you want the top recordings of Elgar, they are those by English conductors and orchestras such as Boult, Barbirolli, Sargent, Elder and so on. Who can beat the playing of Strauss Walzes etc by the Viennese orchestras! I am an avid lover of 19th and 20th century French organ music and that never sounds the same as when performed on French organs (particularly those built by Aristide Cavaille-Coll) by French organists. So although music is universal in its language and appeal, performances by those who share the culture of the composer mostly have something special about them. So it is with the Mravinski Tchaikowsky symphonies. The tempi are instinctive and the sounds so characteristic of traditional Russian orchestras until the relatively recent bland standardisation of orchestral sound blurred the national characteristics of orchestras. As one reviewer also stated, the brass fanfares with their wonderful brashness at the beginning of the 4th Symphony will have you on the edge of your seat - that's if you don't actually fall off it!! - for the rest of the symphony. I didn't know Mravinski's recordings of the 5th and 6th until I bought this set, which I looked at to find a CD replacement of the same recording as my worn out LP. The 5th and 6th did not disappoint - indeed they are electrifying as the performance of the 4th. A moment I was looking forward to as I listened for the first time was that beautiful horn solo at the beginning of the 2nd movement of the 5th and what a wonderful sound - totally Russian as Tchaikowsky would have expected! It seems to come as much from the heart of the player as from the instrument itself, as in this performance it totally sings. The last movement is brisk but never rushed and like the 3rd movement of the Pathetique has an excitement unlike any other performance I've heard.
I would never buy another performance of the Tchaikowsky symphonies as it would disappoint compared to these Mravinski and the Leningrad Philharmonic recordings. Incidentally, with the overthrow of communism came the renaming of Leningrad back to its pre-Revolutionary name of St. Petersburg. Although Lenin was no longer a figure revered and it seemed inappropriate to perpetuate his name in that of that city, somehow something was lost with name of the orchestra. It will always be in my mind the Leningrad!!
This is surely the ultimate Tchaikowsky performance for all time!! I cannot recommend it highly enough - if the Amazon scale went to 10 stars, I would give it 10!!
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on 12 February 2017
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on 4 March 2016
Wow!!! Must be the best collection of the Tchaikovsky Symphonies - excellent.
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on 6 August 2015
Magnificent performance of all three symphonies.
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Shaw once said loftily that Tchaikovsky has a thoroughly Byronic ability to be intensely tragic about nothing much. Without going quite so far, I'd certainly agree that a certain sepulchral tone and a propensity to whip up frantic emotion come to him easily. I don't think I ever heard the start of the 5th symphony expressed with quite such cavernous gloom as it is on this set nor the frenzy more frenzied, and that is exactly how I like it all done.

This set dates from 1960, the height of the cold war, and at that time Mravinsky had been very little heard in what we used to call 'the west'. It was a period when western critics were inclined to favour a smoothed-over play-safe school of interpretation of the musical classics. This had something to be said for it as a reaction against the libertarian excesses of some previous schools, but it descended into a facile mediocrity based to all intents and purposes on checklists and box-ticking, reaching its nadir in the 70's and 80's when the main aesthetic preoccupation in many commentaries was the issue of how many repeats had been observed. Myself, I am thoroughly in favour of professionalism from professional musicians, but on the other hand I don't find checklists a very illuminating guide through the gardens of the muses. It also seemed to me that our ideas of how to play Tchaikovsky were probably too influenced by our ideas of the Viennese classics, and the advent of Mravinsky in London came none to soon.

It was enlightening to me to compare Mravinsky's account of the 4th symphony with a fine modern version from Abbado and the Vienna Philharmonic. On the checklist approach Abbado does very well indeed. I don't impugn the professionalism of the Leningrad orchestra in any way when I suggest that they are not quite the equal technically of the Vienna players, something I noticed particularly in the pizzicato effects in the third movement. However when it came to the question which interpretation had the greater individuality and sense for the composer's idiom, the answer was not long in coming. Put simply, Mravinsky's performance is an event, and Abbado's, by comparison, is not. This is not a matter of taking undue liberties with the tempo. The 4th symphony does not call for that, and Mravinsky deploys only a very normal ebb and flow. The tone-quality has more to do with it, and I find myself bewitched by the penetrating sound of the Leningrad woodwind and brass, but most of all it's a matter of the expression. A great interpretation of Tchaikovsky must put across a sense of neurosis without losing control. Quite apart from the tragedy, gloom and semi-hysteria there must be a tense and nervy feel to the gaiety, and the lyric sections should seem like balm on wounds, and these are the senses I get uniquely from Mravinsky.

When it comes to the 5th , the liner-note has some fairly superficial and noncommittal remarks about freedom of tempo and 'authenticity'. The issue here seems to me to be that Tchaikovsky is trying to achieve something more distinct than before from the Viennese style. The tightly integrated structure of a first movement at which Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms were so adept was not his natural style, and he lacked their mastery in varying the lengths of musical phrases. His first movement is more a succession of short episodes, and without labouring the question of authenticity I'd say that the sense of the music demands a certain amount of flexilibity, although this composer does not micro-specify the details in the way Mahler does. As a comparison from a different standpoint I played my version from Celibadache. By contrast Mravinsky sounds the soul of 'correctness', notably in the first movement where Celibadache starts the allegro at a funereal pace, getting much faster a little later. I don't recommend it as any model, but it has the feel of real Tchaikovsky to me, and I prefer it to any 10 spick-and-span western versions. So does Mravinsky, and I appreciate the comment in the liner that he shows some of the virtues of Toscanini and of Fuertwaengler combined.

With the 6th Tchaikovsky has finally got his formula right. Instead of a seamless Viennese first movement he writes great separate blocks of music, and Mravinsky plays the effect up with long pauses between them. In the finale he abandons 'cyclic form', which doesn't amount to a form but is just a matter of bringing back themes from earlier movements in the finale. Brahms's 3rd shows how the thing can be done, but late romantic symphonists in general are not such musical aristocrats as Brahms. The device is something I learned to dread. Dvorak uses it, but not in his best works, it lets down even so great a composition as Franck's symphony, and in Tchaikovsky's 5th the matter is carried to such excess that it takes Mravinsky or Celibadache to make it tolerable to me. The 6th leaves all that behind, and I never heard a performance to equal this. I recall some comment many years ago to the effect that this 1960 stereo version is not the equal of his 1956 epoch-maker in mono, but I own both and I find little to choose.

This set, for me, is what Tchaikovsky is all about. The orchestral discipline is total, the sound is thrilling (compare Mravinsky at the start of any of these symphonies with anyone you like), this that and the next detail is better than in any other version, but it's the overall sense of communication of the personality of Russia's greatest composer that grips me. The question that the liner poses in its last paragraph is a false antithesis. The 6th shows Tchaikovsky at the height of his powers and is also a suicide note. Blackmail can never have had so eloquent an outcome.
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