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Tchaikovsky: Symphonies 1-4 / Andrew Litton, Bournemouth


Release Date: 10/09/2007 
Label:  Erato   Catalog #: 59699   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 3 Hours 43 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

In their Tchaikovsky series for Virgin, Litton and the Bournemouth Orchestra here come up with a clear winner. Not only is this coupling of the first two symphonies both generous and unique, the performances in every way rival even the outstanding versions I have listed. More strikingly than in the earlier issues in the series, Litton here conveys the tensions and sense of spontaneity of live performances, urgently convincing and full of fresh imagination. Add to that warm and full recording, less distanced than many on this label, and the resulting disc earns the strongest recommendation.

The very opening of the First Symphony seems specifically to reflect the title, Winter daydreams, in a manner relaxed and warm rather than
Read more taut. If from that there is any suspicion this is to be just a run-through, that idea completely evaporates as tension builds to the first fortissimo, leading into an exhilarating account of the main first movement Allegro. Litton in this movement and elsewhere reveals himself as a more volatile Tchaikovskian than Jansons (Chandos) or Karajan (DG), often lighter than either in these early works, often more affectionate than Jansons in phrasing second subjects and less consciously smooth than Karajan. He is also rather freer than either with accelerandos and slowings, which yet never sound self-conscious or too free.

The hushed pianissimos of the Bournemouth strings in the slow movement of the First Symphony outshine those of his rivals, even if the Berliners are uniquely sensuous in their tone, while the great reprise on horns in unison is richer than with Jansons and more varied than with Karajan. The fantasy of the Scherzo at a faster speed than Jansons makes it even more clearly into fairy music, with the waltz-time of the Trio swinging infectiously and leading to a passionate climax. In the finale Litton is again more impulsive than either Jansons or Karajan, and at the end is no less exciting. The Bournemouth strings come very near to matching the phenomenal string articulation of the Berliners in fugato sections, and generally in technical brilliance and finesse the Bournemouth players are a match for any metropolitan rival.

In the Second Symphony Litton again wins points even over Jansons and Karajan. Many will prefer the more conventional tempo for the second movement Andantino marziale, beautifully sprung, less brisk and more relaxed than with Jansons, tighter and less smooth than with Karajan. Litton also gains in the extra rhythmic elbowroom he allows to the syncopated second subject, whether in main statements or in development, giving it an infectious touch of jazziness.

-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [12/1990]
reviewing Symphonies 1 & 2, originally released as Virgin 91119


The refinement and beauty of both the recorded sound and of the Bournemouth orchestra's playing is evident from the slow introduction onwards... In the heavy tuttis Litton's Virgin recording, with fine bloom on the ambient sound, is even more revealing than Jansons's Chandos, and both make the ten-year-old Karajan sound seem a tittle congested by comparison, good as it is. ...[Litton] certainly comes into his own in the central slow movement, when he chooses a flowing Andante elegiaco which then needs no basic modification for the broad melody of the molto espressivo section which follows. That lovely Tchaikovsky melody he moulds with what I can only describe as Elgarian rubato, giving it nobilmente treatment. It reminded me of Litton's earlier Virgin record of Elgar (12/88), which I much enjoyed. As for the stiffest test of the finale with its potentially vulgar patriotic second subject melody, Litton braves the problems with his refreshingly direct view. Though, as in the first movement, he does not quite match the rhythmic finesse of Jansons in avoiding squareness, his view is at once weighty but not coarse, and the Bournemouth players surpass themselves.

There is a similar contrast in the treatment of the big, swinging Neapolitan theme in the Capriccio Italien. Jansons and Karajan are more lilting, but Litton contrasts it very effectively with the more lightly-scored passages, which are scintillatingly clear. As for the Onegin Polonaise, that brings some of the most rhythmically infectious playing of all... [T]he beauty of the sound give it a firm place in a hotly competitive area. I look forward to the rest of the series.

-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [4/1989]
reviewing Symphony no 3, Capriccio Italien, and the Eugene Onegin Polonaise, originally released as Virgin 90761
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 1 in G minor, Op. 13 "Winter daydreams" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1866/1874; Russia 
Date of Recording: 1989 
Venue:  Wessex Hall, Poole Arts Centre, Dorset 
Length: 45 Minutes 5 Secs. 
2.
Symphony no 2 in C minor, Op. 17 "Little Russian" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Russia 
Date of Recording: 1989 
Venue:  Wessex Hall, Poole Arts Centre, Dorset 
Length: 34 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: Russia (1872).
Composition revised: Russia (1880). 
3.
Capriccio italien, Op. 45 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880; Russia 
Date of Recording: 07/1988 
Venue:  Wessex Hall, Poole Arts Centre, Dorset 
Length: 16 Minutes 26 Secs. 
4.
Symphony no 3 in D major, Op. 29 "Polish" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875; Russia 
Date of Recording: 07/1988 
Venue:  Wessex Hall, Poole Arts Centre, Dorset 
Length: 46 Minutes 49 Secs. 
5.
Eugene Onegin, Op. 24: Polonaise by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877-1878; Russia 
Date of Recording: 07/1988 
Venue:  Wessex Hall, Poole Arts Centre, Dorset 
Length: 4 Minutes 54 Secs. 
6.
Symphony no 4 in F minor, Op. 36 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877-1878; Russia 
Date of Recording: 09/1988 
Venue:  Wessex Hall, Poole Arts Centre, Dorset 
Length: 43 Minutes 36 Secs. 
7.
Serenade for Strings in C major, Op. 48 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Andrew Litton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880; Russia 
Date of Recording: 09/1988 
Venue:  Wessex Hall, Poole Arts Centre, Dorset 
Length: 31 Minutes 18 Secs. 

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