Top positive review
6 people found this helpful
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!!