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Peter TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op.35 (1878) [30:11]
Romeo and Juliet, Op.18 (1869) [19:56] Modest
Pictures at an Exhibition (1874) [30:23]
Philadelphia Orchestra/ Eugene Ormandy
EUROARTS 2072128 [81:24]
DVD is a compilation of two films made by Unitel in the late
1970s. Both showcase the Philadelphia Orchestra and their
long serving principal conductor Eugene Ormandy. It is also
an entirely Russian programme. There appears, then, to be
a logic to the combination. However, matters are not quite
highlight of the disc is Perlman’s magnificent performance
of the Tchaikovsky concerto. Collectors may already be familiar
with his conception of the work from the audio recording
that he made with the Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta
in Russia (now also available on DVD). The present performance
is flawlessly played, the passage work excellent and the
double - and occasionally triple - stopped chords precisely
in tune. Just listen to the first movement cadenza. Perlman
has a spiccato to die for and provides a generous
quantity of portamenti. The first movement begins
at a sensible tempo but as soon as Perlman and Ormandy see
a piu mosso indication, the tension increases quite
considerably. The final allegro giusto is similarly
sensational, as is the ending of the movement. Ormandy was
always an excellent accompanist in concerti, but here the
orchestral tuttis have a certain stoicism to them; whilst
Perlman generates considerable electricity, the moments when
he is not playing tend to sag a little. Perhaps this was
due to a disagreement over interpretation. Ormandy’s conducting
is throughout noble, Perlman’s playing all fireworks and
heart-on-sleeve emotion. The visuals emphasise this. Whilst
Perlman is frequently smiling, the Philadelphia players simply
look bored. Nevertheless the impact of this movement is incendiary,
prompting the audience to prolonged applause.
the rest of the concerto maintains the high standard set
by the first movement. The central canzonetta is played
at a swifter, more flowing tempo than usual and gains immeasurably
for it. Perlman’s warm, burnished tone is an asset here.
The final movement begins with a forceful, fearless solo
and then settles into an astonishingly fast allegro.
In short Perlman demonstrates some astoundingly good violin
playing here, particularly when playing octaves (perfectly
tuned) or harmonics. The Philadelphians provide some lovely
wind details in the meno mosso sections, although
some might find such moments a little too flexible. However,
the final pages are electrifying, even the uninterested orchestral
players galvanised to some fiery playing. Needless to say,
Perlman gets a rapturous reception.
rest of the programme is variable. Ormandy has always been
an underrated conductor. Perhaps the sheer volume of his
recorded legacy has tempted some to brand him a ‘hack’ conductor.
He remained at the helm of the Philadelphia Orchestra for
an incredible 42 years and the rapport between conductor
and orchestra is evident throughout these performances. There
are, however, problems. Romeo and Juliet probably
comes off best. As the booklet notes point out, this is not
a performance of extreme tempo contrasts. Rather, Ormandy
varies the tempi only slightly. The result is somewhat less
exciting than the norm, but all the more moving for it. The
orchestra play magnificently, the wind particularly providing
some lovely playing.
at an Exhibition continues
the trend of sensible tempi and a lack of visceral excitement.
This was an Ormandy speciality, and whilst there is a
certain symphonic grandeur to the performance there is
a definite lack of excitement. Suffice to say ‘The Great
Gate of Kiev’ makes an awesome impression, due mostly
to the impact of the Philadelphia brass. Indeed, all
the works on this DVD are remarkably well-played. The
Chicago Symphony are perhaps more renowned for their
physical impact, but the Philadelphians as heard here
are more than a match in terms of decibels for their
neighbours to the west and can certainly boast of a superior
are to be commended on this release, and many others. Not
only have they swiped a significant section of the Unitel
catalogue - which was originally going to be released by
Deutsche Grammophon - but their presentation is exemplary.
The booklet contains a critique of the performances and the
artwork is a vibrant combination of greens and oranges. Sound
is generally good, though a little constricted in the concerto.
The picture is typical of videotape recordings of the period
- very clear but with frequent colour ‘spillage’ and interference.
Eminently watchable nevertheless, and certainly worth investing
in for the unbeatable combination of Ormandy, Perlman and
Philadelphia. An absolute essential for violin fans, and
certainly worth snapping up by the casual buyer.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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