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Tchaikovsky: Symphonies, Romeo & Juliet, Francesca Da Rimini / Rostropovich, London Po


Release Date: 05/27/2008 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 19493   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Mstislav Rostropovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 5 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 6 Hours 9 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



TCHAIKOVSKY Symphonies: Nos. 1–6. Manfred. Romeo and Juliet: Love theme. Francesca da Rimini Mstislav Rostropovich, cond; London PO EMI 19493 (5 CDs: 377:45)


Rostropovich’s recordings of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies have been generally admired since their appearance on LP in 1977, and it is good to have them restored to the catalog with this reissue. Rostropovich’s Tchaikovsky is very serious and weighty. This is not Read more to say that Rostropovich’s conducting here is dull. Quite the contrary: his tempos are lively, sometimes faster than expected, and his readings very emotional. Rostropovich obtains excellent playing from the London Philharmonic. He often brings forth inner voices and instrumental lines that I had not noticed before in other performances, but not at the expense of the structure of the music.


Symphonies Nos. 1–3 receive passionate, intense readings. Tempos are well judged, although I found the trio section of the Scherzo of Symphony No. 1 to be a little too fast, taking away from its charm. Some may feel that the presto section of the finale of Symphony No. 2 (starting around 9:10) could be a little faster, but the movement is still quite exciting at Rostropovich’s tempo. I often found myself physically involved in these performances, bouncing in my seat as I listened to some of the movements. The performances of all three symphonies are among the best I have heard.


Symphonies Nos. 4–6 are also excellent. Some may find an occasional tempo slightly slow, for example the last movement of No. 4 or first movement of No. 5, but this is a matter of a small degree, and most will have no dispute with Rostropovich’s tempos. As throughout all of these discs, Rostropovich’s attention to detail, intensity, and passion make these among the best recordings of these works I have heard.


Until now, I have always found Manfred disappointing. The few performances I had heard made the work seem dull and did not encourage me to look any farther in hope of finding a better performance. But from the very beginning of Rostropovich’s performance, I knew things would be different. The Manfred theme in the woodwinds at the beginning of the first movement immediately arrested my attention, and I sat enthralled through the remainder of the performance. I can’t imagine this work being done any better.


Francesca da Rimini is not one of Tchaikovsky’s best scores, and in lesser hands this work can fail to make much of an effect. In fact, I had not previously heard a recording that convinced me that Francesca da Rimini was more than third-rate Tchaikovsky. But from the first notes of Rostropovich’s performance, all my doubts were swept aside. From the opening brass fanfare through the exciting whirlwind and tender love music, I was completely involved in the music. I have not heard, nor do I expect to hear, a better recording of this work. No other performance in my experience even comes close. Romeo and Juliet also is very well done.


The symphonies were originally released on LP in 1977. They were reviewed by Ben Pernick in Fanfare ’s first year of publication (1:3), who highly recommended them. They were remastered for a previous CD issue in 1996. The remastering is excellent. There is not a hint of the analog origin of these recordings. Mr. Pernick had commented that, in Manfred , the organ part in the finale did not come through very well and the symphony had been recorded at a lower level than the other symphonies. The remastering has corrected these minor problems. The sound is excellent, although slightly recessed. I found a volume boost helped.


The five discs are packaged in what has become the standard “bargain” box in which the discs are enclosed in envelopes which are a little too small to allow the discs to be removed easily. In order to fit all of this music on five discs, Symphonies Nos. 3 and 6 are split between discs. Notes are included in English, German, and French.


I have listened to these performances numerous times over the past six weeks, and my admiration for them has grown with each hearing, so I can safely recommend this set to anyone wanting a complete set of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies. I don’t think you’ll find a better one.

FANFARE: Ron Salemi


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Works on This Recording

1. Symphony no 1 in G minor, Op. 13 "Winter daydreams" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Mstislav Rostropovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1866/1874; Russia 
Length: 45 Minutes 16 Secs. 
2. Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Mstislav Rostropovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876; Russia 
Length: 25 Minutes 29 Secs. 
3. Symphony no 2 in C minor, Op. 17 "Little Russian" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Mstislav Rostropovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Russia 
Length: 34 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: Russia (1872).
Composition revised: Russia (1880). 
4. Symphony no 3 in D major, Op. 29 "Polish" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Mstislav Rostropovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875; Russia 
Length: 46 Minutes 36 Secs. 
5. Romeo and Juliet Overture by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Mstislav Rostropovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1869/1880; Russia 
Length: 22 Minutes 50 Secs. 
6. Symphony no 4 in F minor, Op. 36 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Mstislav Rostropovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877-1878; Russia 
7. Symphony no 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Mstislav Rostropovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Russia 
8. Manfred Symphony in B minor, Op. 58 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Mstislav Rostropovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1885 
9. Symphony no 5 in E minor, Op. 64 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Mstislav Rostropovich
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; Russia 

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