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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 – 1893)
Symphony No. 1 in G Minor Winter Daydreams (1866)
The Snow Maiden – Suite (1873)
Romeo and Juliet (1880)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi.
Recorded in Gothenburg Concert Hall, Sweden 17th – 18th June 2002 (Symphony) 5th – 6th December 2002 (The Snow Maiden) and 22nd August 2003 (Romeo and Juliet). DDD
BIS-SACD-1398 [77.10]



When Chandos terminated Järvi’s contract general opinion was that it was because the conductor wished to record more mainstream works than Chandos would permit. Chandos’s loss was BIS’s gain because if further superb performances like this one reach us as a result, we will be the winners.

BIS started a Tchaikovsky series with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra with Jose Serebrier a couple of years ago, and although well received in the press, did not seem to sell all that well in the shops. Hopefully this series, if it continues, will do better. With the Jansons cycle in their catalogue, it is totally understandable that Jarvi didn’t stand a chance with Chandos.

If BIS issue these performances quickly enough, they may be the first company with a complete cycle of Tchaikovsky Symphonies on SACD. There will definitely be a market for them. The sixth (Pathétique) has already been issued to high acclaim, and it is to be hoped that this cycle does well.

One only wonders if there will be any further issues in the Serebrier series now that Järvi is underway with his. There is already some duplication between the two.

What is clear is that the Gothenberg Symphony Orchestra, now carrying the additional logo "The National Orchestra of Sweden", is a clear match for the Bambergers, although in the final analysis, the superior acoustic of the Gothenburg Concert Hall trounces the competition.

Järvi, a long time fan of Russian music in general, has an instinctive feel for Tchaikovsky that comes to the fore here. The Symphony has a forthright atmosphere in the first movement, which is entirely appropriate, given that Tchaikovsky is creating in sound the effect of a sleigh ride through the snow. The playing is crisp and bright.

The slow movement is played with much feeling and the glorious climax in this movement expands to fulfil one’s expectations of the composer’s inspiration. The balletic scherzo is beautifully played, and the finale is suitably bucolic, moving forward with great momentum, ending in a spectacular display of orchestral colour. I haven’t enjoyed hearing this symphony so much for a long time.

The fill-ups are similarly satisfying. Do we really need yet another performance of Romeo and Juliet in the catalogue, particularly when BIS has released it in the Serebrier series, on BIS-CD-1398? Perhaps the arrival of SACD has something to do with this.

The excerpts from The Snow Maiden are similarly superb with a particularly fine Dance of the Buffoons, played at a tremendous speed and fit to raise the roof. A well-filled and played compendium of Tchaikovsky’s orchestral repertoire. More please!

John Phillips

 



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