This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
The Philadelphia Orchestra's rich tradition of Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 recordings continues in this handsome new release from Ondine. The SACD sonics are so clear and wide-ranging and the ensemble balance is so natural that the orchestra occupies a space seemingly independent of any electronic equipment. Christoph Eschenbach's purposeful yet unforced interpretation also exudes naturalness and balance. A glance at the timings (the performance lasts more than 50 minutes, similar to Bernstein's and Böhm's) initially gives the impression of excessively broad tempos, but this is not the case as Eschenbach's fluid pacing is ever alive to theRead more needs of the musical passage in question--for example, the first-movement introduction is somber and meditative, but the following march goes at a respectable clip.
Eschenbach makes full use of his orchestra's legendary tonal richness and instrumental color--qualities tailor-made for Tchaikovsky's scoring, and ones that go a long way toward mitigating the possibility of excessive heaviness. Throughout the first movement I was made newly aware of the symphony's stylistic connection to the same composer's Manfred Symphony, while the Andante cantabile's famous horn solo has rarely sounded so lovely--and in this movement Eschenbach twice (after each disruptive appearance of the symphony's motto theme) makes use of Brucknerian silences, heightening the dramatic effect.
More than a few Tchaikovsky Fifth performances lose their way in the finale, but Eschenbach maintains his concentration to the end, with a confident, comfortably paced introduction leading to an invigorating allegro. The Philadelphia brass plays gloriously in this movement, as throughout the work, and the rest of the orchestra (strings in the Andante, woodwinds in the Valse) displays its legendary virtuosity in spades. As a follow-up, Eschenbach offers engaging renditions of Tchaikovsky's The Seasons (Nos. 1-6), making for an unusual and satisfying encore.