Vladimir Jurowski is just one of those young Russians who boast major positions in England. Thankfully, the London Philharmonic keeps up with the fiery Russian, releasing several recording on its own label since he took over in 2007. I eagerly anticipated this release of the Tchaikovsky 4th and 5th symphonies, hoping to find new ideas and Russian passion from a conductor who isn't for the faint-hearted. Now that it's here, how has Jurowski fared?
Jurowski opens the 4th Symphony with clear, vibrant horns. It becomes evident that Jurowski has his orchestra in wonderful shape, with detailed playing helped by the wonderful recorded sound. Interpretively, Jurowski isn't going for full-out tragedy. He isn't ominous, like Karajan in Berlin. I don't mind, though, due to his mesmerizing lyric abilities. The natural flow reminds us that a Russian is at the podium. It's tough to balance this towering movement without becoming overblown or tepid. Jurowski manages very well, leaning towards gentility without losing tension.
The 2nd movement is even better, dripping with tangs of bittersweet longing and the most affectionate phrasing. We're not wallowing in sentimentality, yet we're emotionally drawn. Moving to the pizzicato Scherzo, Jurowski is still alert, even though we don't have the luxury of higher class strings. It's the trio that comes alive, with chirping woodwinds that threaten to turn our symphony into a ballet.
Since Jurowski's view of this symphony isn't overtly tragic, the finale is more of a joyful romp than a long awaited triumph over despair. By now you will have decided whether Jurowski's youthful, energized view is a worthy one. If, like me, you answer in the affirmative, you will be floored by this appropriately sunny finale, sparkling with child-like wistfulness. In the end, count this 4th a winner, thanks to Jurowski's lyricism that mixes with unbounded youthfulness to create the perfect environment.
Jurowski retains the same fundamental outlook in the 5th Symphony. He's excitable without any excesses. Sometimes I wonder if he's moving too briskly, actually. There are abrupt cut-offs in the 1st movement (one spot seems to be a recording glitch) and the climaxes in the 2nd movement are hurried. These are only minor complaints, however, as there's an involvement that decidedly places this reading above average. Once again, his conducting flows with Russian vigor, an approach more meaningful than the popular habit of going for sheer orchestral brilliance.
While the whole performance has many merits, the greatest attraction is the finale. Fireworks abound, but they come from a heart that throbs with dark passion. I'm reminded of Gergiev's all-out involvement on his recording with the Vienna Philharmonic. We're hurled along, gasping for breath yet fully caught up in the enormity of victory. What more could one want?
I'm pleased to endorse both these readings as ones that qualify for greatness. Jurowski may not stress pathos as much as his rivals, but he overflows with Russian vigor that makes his sunny readings stand out.
I ordered this coupling of two great Tchaikowsky symphonies following raving rewiews. İn all fairness, it is a fine addition to at least half a dozen sets of Tchaikowsky symphonies in my collection. Having said that, I doubt if I would place these performances among those that deserve to be called 'great'. For greatness, one should turn to Gergiev with VPO, Mravinsky with the Leningrad Philharmonic or Jansons with the Oslo Philharmonic. Daniela Gati with the Royal Philharmonic would also be a better choice. The recording quality is acceptable but falls short of audiophile standards; it is a bit dry and occasionally sounds slightly congested.
As with symphonies 1 and 6, I enjoyed the earlier work more than the later. Symphony 5 is fine, as was 6, but symphonies 1 and 4 are outstanding in my opinion. Formerly I preferred Szell's exciting reading of 4, but this is just as exciting, slightly less extreme and better recorded. Well worth buying for 4.
At just under £10 (and any other price for the matter) these two symphonies are offered with out-standing performances and in very good sound. I have other performances but would be happy to live with just these. Job done!
I had this 2 disc set in Santa's sack and have only now got round to playing them. All I can say is WOW!!
Anybody expecting rum-te-tum boring workaday performances of these two warhorses is in for a real surprise. They blaze, they sing, they thrill and the LPO play out of their collective skins for their chief. On this evidence alone Jurowski reveals himself as a conductor of genius and I would not be surprised if the BPO management are at this very moment on the phone to his agent.
You don't need another Tchaik 4 & 5? Believe me, you do. Buy these and hear why!