Notes and Editorial Reviews
It's a tribute to Vladimir Jurowski's achievement here that there's less difference in quality between the First and Sixth symphonies than often is the case. But if you heard his "Manfred" Symphony, then you already know that he's one of the great Tchaikovsky conductors working today, and he has the LPO playing with a commitment and intensity that the orchestra has often lacked under its previous music directors. Could this be a sign of a return to world-class status? Let's hope so, and for more Russian music from these forces.
The secret to Jurowski's success in both works lies in his ability to give the music time to achieve the maximum intensity while using pointed rhythm
and characterful phrasing to avoid any suggestion of sluggishness. The result is the sheer brute force that we have every right to expect, without a trace of vulgarity or straining after effect. The music flows, even in the (usually) tacky coda of the First symphony, or in the always difficult-to-pace first movement. In the famous second subject of the Sixth's first movement, Jurowski doesn't milk the tune to the point that it loses all connection to what has come before; rather, it breathes impulsively, passionately, and with remarkable lyrical force. Then the development crashes in with as much violence and power as in any performance yet recorded. Its tragic climax in the recapitulation is absolutely shattering.
The slow movement of the First symphony has remarkable atmosphere and poetry, while the second movement of the Sixth, Jurowski reminds us, is marked "Allegro con grazia", and that's exactly what we hear. Both scherzos are noteworthy for their quicksilver pacing and keen rhythm, that of the Sixth rising to a crushing climax. Jurowski doesn't stretch the Pathétique's finale to the length that Bernstein does, but you'll still want to stick your head in an oven and turn on the gas by the time it's over--he sure gets the job done. Notice the inexorable rhythm of the basses after the chilling tam-tam stroke that initiates the coda.
Happily, the engineering is just as dynamic as the live concert performances (aided by very quiet audiences). Brilliant treble, deep and rich bass, and plenty of both depth and clarity (woodwinds particularly well balanced against the strings) complement the interpretations perfectly. If you love Tchaikovsky, then you'll love this release. It's hot--really hot.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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