Notes and Editorial Reviews
Sometimes the record industry makes our lives easy. Since it was first issued in 1967, these performances have set the standard in this music, not that there has been all that much competition. Melodiya has the raw and indifferently engineered Svetlanov, Chandos the shallow and forgettable Järvi, Sony the very good but only sporadically available Tilson Thomas, and various labels the dull-as-ditchwater Marriner. That about sums it up. Of course, there are some fine versions of the finale of the Third Suite as a separate work, while “Mozartiana” has always been popular, but if you’re looking for the complete set, this is the one to get.
Here’s a good quiz question for classical music fans: What work by a
major 19th century composer contains a part for four (count ‘em, FOUR) accordions? Answer: Tchaikovsky’s Second Suite, specifically, its third movement Scherzo Burlesque (sound clip). These pieces will never be as popular as the symphonies because, as the bizarre scoring suggests, they are not works that evoke either the drama or emotional intensity of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies or symphonic poems. They are, rather, somewhat abstract essays in orchestral sonority and thematic variation.
That said, they are full of delightful music when taken on their own terms. Tchaikovsky’s typically high level of craftsmanship is everywhere in evidence, and the masterful ballet composer is never absent for long in the numerous characterful dance movements. Dorati was of course a masterly Tchaikovsky conductor. He secures excellent playing from the New Philharmonia, while the engineering, by Mercury Living Presence irrespective of the label under which the performances currently appear (Decca for this reissue), is excellent.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less
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