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Tchaikovsky: Orchestral Suites No 1-4, Romeo And Juliet / Marriner


Release Date: 05/26/2009 
Label:  Phoenix Edition   Catalog #: 412   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Radio Symphony OrchestraAcademy of St. Martin in the Fields
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



TCHAIKOVSKY Orchestral Suites: No. 1 in d; No. 2 in C; No. 3 in G; No. 4 in G, “Mozartiana.” Romeo and Juliet. 1 Francesca da Rimini. 1 Capriccio italien 1 Neville Marriner, cond; Stuttgart RSO; Academy of St. Martin in the Fields 1 PHOENIX EDITION Read more 412 (3 CDs: 193:55)


Marriner’s 1987 recordings of Tchaikovsky’s four orchestral suites have been longtime companions in my collection in their original Capriccio incarnations. The suites are among the top candidates in the composer’s canon of orchestral works to win the Orphan Annie award. Even the so-called “Mozartiana” Suite, the last and most popular in the series, has enjoyed but a fraction of the exposure, either in concert or on record, of any of the symphonies, concertos, tone poems, or ballets. Yet the suites came at a time when Tchaikovsky was at the height of his orchestral mastery, in roughly the decade (1879–1887) between his Fourth and Fifth Symphonies. There is every reason to believe that Tchaikovsky took his compositional efforts on the suites seriously, and saw them as an important step in advancing his orchestral skills before moving on to his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, his Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker ballets, and his later tone poems and fantasy overtures— Hamlet, The Storm, Fatum , and The Voyevoda.


To a not insignificant degree, some of the actual music in these suites belies movement titles such as Gavotte, Danse baroque, and Gigue, which would lead one to expect lightweight neo-Baroque divertimento-type pieces. To be sure, Tchaikovsky does not shy away from the lighter side, but there are movements, like the Introduzione e fuga of the Suite No. 1 in D Minor, that are of a symphonic weight and portent that seem to have been conceived for a heavier, more serious orchestral work, perhaps a tone poem with a tragic ending. The Suite No. 4, in contrast, was Tchaikovsky’s tribute to Mozart, but in a way calculated to tease the listener with some brain ticklers. Three of the suite’s four movements are based on relatively obscure Mozart works—at least, they probably were more so at the time than they are now—the Gigue in G Major, K 574, the Minuet in D Major, K 355, and the Variations on “Unser dummer Pöbel,” K 455. Only the movement based on the Ave verum corpus , K 618, was likely to have been familiar.


I’ve always liked these Marriner/Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra performances. They seem foamy and frothy where they need to be, and serious and substantive where called for. But approximately 10 years later, they received a run for their money from Neeme Järvi and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra on Chandos. I have the original releases of those as well. They first appeared on four separate discs, each suite coupled with one of the composer’s other orchestral works. They are still available in that format as full-priced single discs, but Chandos has also repackaged just the four suites in a two-disc set, still at full price, however. Comparing the two sets side by side, I have to say that Järvi enjoys a considerable edge over Marriner, but not necessarily because of more insightful interpretive readings. What Järvi has going for him is an orchestral ensemble that sounds slightly more augmented and more robust than the Stuttgart RSO, and even more important, Chandos’s fabled sound, which has depth, breadth, and a dynamic range the original Capriccio and their Phoenix Edition transfers can’t quite match. Still, the Marriner recordings offer very satisfying performances, and at $16.99 for a three-disc set that also includes three other of Tchaikovsky’s popular works, this is an unbeatable bargain.


As for those other works, there are simply too many recordings of them to engage in comparative shopping. For sheer sumptuousness of sound in the Romeo and Juliet Overture, I’ve long reveled in Sinopoli’s 1989 Deutsche Grammophon recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra. In Francesca da Rimini , Dante’s cautionary tale of perpetual punishment for infidelity and weakness of the flesh, few could stir the cauldrons of Hell like Stokowski firing up the London Symphony Orchestra in a 1974 recording now available on a PentaTone SACD. For those who find anything by Stokowski suspect, a close runner-up in the emporium of eternal torture and torment is Neeme Järvi with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra on a spectacular BIS SACD. And for the Capriccio italien , I’ve always liked the snap, crackle, and should I say “pops” of Erich Kunzel leading the Cincinnati Pops on a Telarc recording of Tchaikovsky bonbons. Marriner’s performances of all three works with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields on disc 3 of this set may not rise to the level of any of the aforementioned versions, but they’re perfectly respectable.


Given that these three additional works are with a different orchestra and are of a later recording date (1991–92) than the suites, I’m not sure what the rationale was for including them to make up a three-disc set. But again, for $16.99, I’m not complaining. Recommended then to the budget conscious (who isn’t these days?) and/or to those who don’t already have these works in one or more other favorite versions.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

1.
Suite for Orchestra no 1 in D major, Op. 43 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878-1879; Russia 
Length: 35 Minutes 10 Secs. 
2.
Suite for Orchestra no 2 in C major, Op. 53 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883; Russia 
Length: 33 Minutes 22 Secs. 
3.
Suite for Orchestra no 3 in G major, Op. 55 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1884; Russia 
Length: 38 Minutes 34 Secs. 
4.
Suite for Orchestra no 4 in G major, Op. 61 "Mozartiana" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887; Russia 
Length: 23 Minutes 36 Secs. 
5.
Romeo and Juliet Overture by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1869/1880; Russia 
Length: 20 Minutes 36 Secs. 
6.
Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876; Russia 
Length: 24 Minutes 6 Secs. 
7.
Capriccio italien, Op. 45 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880; Russia 
Length: 14 Minutes 48 Secs. 

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