Notes and Editorial Reviews
This classic set offers a very personal but tremendously satisfying view of the Tchaikovsky symphonies. Stravinsky loved Tchaikovsky, and you might wonder why, given that the two men couldn’t have been further apart, aesthetically. But beyond the superheated emotionalism, Stravinsky appreciated Tchaikovsky’s elegance, his rhythmic ebullience, his precision, and the crystalline scoring. These are the very qualities that Markevitch highlights, and in so doing he turns in one of the most personal and satisfying views of the symphonies ever recorded.
So this is not by any means a cold or inexpressive cycle. On the contrary, and it’s very interesting to see what Markevitch brings to the music that no one else does. Consider the
cantabile second subject of the Fifth Symphony’s first movement. Tchaikovsky marks it “much more tranquilly” and prescribes a slight slowing down in tempo. But he also asks that the tune in the violins be played “very cantabile and expressive.”
Markevitch essentially ignores the first instruction, and goes for the second, pushing forward urgently (sound clip). It’s seldom a mistake to go for more excitement, and this decision is so much more persuasive than in the majority of performances, which slow down much more than Tchaikovsky suggests.
Consider also the finale of the Fourth Symphony. Markevitch leans ever so slightly on the first note of the brassy march tune on each of its first two phrases, holding back very slightly before urging the music on purposefully. The result provides an extra measure of grandeur without vulgarity. More importantly, it prevents the precision of the strings and the straight-laced rhythms from turning mechanical or impersonal. In short, Markevitch’s approach is wonderfully intelligent and sympathetic even where it is most original.
It only remains to be said that the playing of the London Symphony is remarkably disciplined for this period (early to mid 60s), another testament to Markevitch’s commanding podium presence. Along with Muti’s EMI cycle, this is clearly a reference recording for the Tchaikovsky symphonies, and it’s interesting that both sets were made in London, with British orchestras, belying their reputation for emotional coolness. This is quite an achievement, and an essential component of any serious Tchaikovsky collection.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 4 in F minor, Op. 36 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
London Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1877-1878; Russia
Symphony no 5 in E minor, Op. 64 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
London Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1888; Russia
Featured Sound Samples
Symphony no 1 "Winter Daydreams": IV. Finale
Symphony no 3 "Polish": I. Introduzione e Allegro
Symphony no 5: II. Andante cantabile...
Symphony no 6 "Pathétique": III. Allegro molto vivace
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